The Best Bits & Review of the Metroflex Bodybuilding Seminar

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have no doubt heard of Metroflex Gym.

Shortly before Ronnie Coleman won his first Olympia, I visited the Arlington, Texas gym to spend four days alongside the Big Nasty as he prepped to become the greatest bodybuilder of the current age. While there, I interviewed Metroflex Gym owner Brian Dobson because the gym struck me as suck a throwback to everything I love about gyms and everything that is lost in the current age of corporate fitness centers.

Twelve years later, Metroflex is known as a hardcore haven, listed alongside Westside Barbell, Body Builders Gym in Akron, Dorian Yates’ Temple Gym, Quads Gym in Chicago and Rick Hussey’s Big Iron Gym as one of the few truly hardcore gyms around.

Fortunately, there seems to be a resurgence in hardcore gyms these days, with a number of Metroflex Gyms taking the position of the Gold’s and World Gyms before they self-castrated and went mainstream.

Now with locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and new locations opening in Colorado Springs, Metroflex is on the rise. Best of all, these gyms are owned by top bodybuilders or fans of serious lifting. Greg McCoy, the owner of the Metroflex-Plano location is no exception.

To show his appreciation for serious bodybuilding, he runs twice a year promotional/customer appreciation events which consist of seminars, lift-offs and lots of freebies handed out to the crowd. He also held a seminar with National Level Bodybuilder and Top Level Trainer Jeff Dwelle, National Level Bodybuilder and Record Holding Power Lifter Justin Harris, and National Level Competitor and Metroflex Plano Member Steve Kuclo.

In the seminar Jeff, Steve and Justin answer questions regarding training, diet, and the lifestyle required to be successful as a bodybuilder or power lifter.

I am going to share some of the interesting info quotes below and also review the DVD:

Metroflex Bodybuilding Seminar Insights

Justin Harris: “That’s really the difference between being a guy that works out and being a bodybuilder. Being the guy that works out means going to the gym an hour or an hour-and-a-half, a couple days a week. Being a bodybuilder is not one hour a day. It’s literally ALL day long.”

“Every two hours when you eat you have a chance to make yourself a better bodybuilder or make yourself a worse bodybuilder.”

Steve Kuclo: “Bodybuilding is a twenty-four hour, 365 type of lifestyle. The guy that slacks over his off-season is the guy that not necessarily going to win. Consistency and dedication are the two key words applied to bodybuilding.”

Jeff Dwelle: “Bodybuilding shows are not won on the day of the show. They are won in the months or the years leading up to that show in the time in the training in the gym and the getting your food with the consistency.”

Justin Harris: “There is a point of overtraining but the fact that people walk around worrying that they are going to work TOO HARD to get big is a bit absurd if you think about it. I think about other sports, ‘I could have been a great basketball player but I worked too hard…’ Over training is probably, on the list of things to worry about, towards the bottom.”

Jeff Dwelle: “The only instances where I’ve seen it [overtraining] become an issue is in a diet situation, where you have some stress (low calories, lot of cardio). Outside stressors can definitely inhibit your ability to recover and get the benefit from training.”

Justin Harris: “If you decide to compete, you have to decide to compete. It is all-or-nothing. There is no worse feeling the being on stage and looking like shit… being on stage and being embarrassed to be up there.”

Justin Harris: “There’s a million different diets that work: the keto diet, carb cycling… they all work. The one thing that will never work is trying a million different things during the course of your diet.”

Jeff Dwelle: “For me as a trainer, what I ask my clients or prospective clients is, ‘Do you have the money…?’ because [contest prep] is a very expensive undertaking, no matter what. ‘Do you have the time’ and ‘Are you committed to winning?.’ Those are the three questions I would ask because it is a commitment you have to make on all fronts.”

Steve Kuclo: “I like cooking in bulk; not one meal at a time, if I cook, I cook for like three days so I have a container full of chicken at home and a container full of rice. I have it portioned out for the day and throw it in a baggy to go and eat. Cooking in bulk is huge in order to keep up with your eating schedule.”

Justin Harris: “We were meant to walk for four to six hours hunting before we got a piece of meat. The way we were designed… think thousands of years ago… the women would gather fruits and nuts and the men would go hunt all day for one single meal of meat. Obviously it is different being a top bodybuilding from being a skinny guy in a hunter/gatherer society but people get a little too worried that walking on a treadmill at a couple miles an hour is going to make muscle fall off.”

“Look at Ronnie Coleman. In one of his videos, he’s in the off-season and we see him squatting 800-pounds then two hours later he is doing an hour on the Stepmill. If Ronnie Coleman, at three-hundred pounds, can do 45-minutes on the Stepmill, which is high-intensity cardio, and he was not exactly lacking in leg muscle.”

Justin Harris: “This is the first time he [Steve Kuclo’s Nationals prep] has ever gotten that lean.  Those last fat cells, those stubborn fat cells that are bound to an estrogen receptor that have never been gone before have been shrunk down…. Now that he has got there, his body will remember that.”

National Level Bodybuilder and Record Holding Power Lifter Justin Harris

Jeff Dwelle: “You can thin out your skin on a keto diet, there is no doubt, and you can lose bodyfat. I do think it comes as a trade at some level, depending on how long you can maintain glycogen and how long you can handle the dieting. It was difficult for me to train, to be honest. I was doing two hours of cardio a day and not really eating anything and subsisting on shakes and some protein. I really didn’t get much done… I think you need to find the right system for you and that can be different for everyone.”

Steve Kuclo: “This year was my first year experiencing keto and a lot of it boils down to your genetics. Keto isn’t for everybody. Is it something to try out? It is. A running keto is what I did. For two weeks I would hit keto and then I’d bring some carbs back into my diet. Did it get me really lean? Yeah, I got lean really fast but then I sacrificed some muscle and energy levels are just really in the dirt. When you are about seven days into it, you just really are pretty much running on fumes. Some people can handle it and some people can’t. For me, personally, a keto diet would be a last resort type of deal.”

Jeff Dwelle: “In my own personal circumstance, I make it really easy. I bookend my meals with eggs or egg whites. I’m at home for my first meal and I’m at home for my last meal so that knocks out two. I’ve got meat for two meals and some sort of carbs, so that gets me to four. I have some sort of protein shake and nuts, almonds or peanut butter for two and that gets me to six [meals]. That’s basic.”

Jeff Dwelle: “I was a steakaholic for a long time too. I’ve done a couple of diets just on pure steak. Different people will have different opinions on that. I happen to mix my protein sources so I don’t have steak at every meal, but I might have steak, when I’m contest dieting, twice a day. It does seem to satiate me a bit more than the white meats do. If I’m dieting and making progress well, I am going to stay on steak. If I’m not, I may go to white fish for a little while or mix them back and forth. I do think steak, for whatever reason, seems to be more substantial for me when I’m dieting.”

Steve Kuclo: “Personally, I have only pretty much dieted on chicken… just because of ease and cost. It’s pretty affordable. It’s going to boil down to calorie and fat content between the two [chicken and steak]. Obviously, if you are on track and eating steak, and you’re making progress, then there is no reason to change it. If you need to cut some calories out from fat go [from steak] to chicken or white fish, that way you are going to cut maybe fifty calories out a meal by just reducing the amount of fat.”

Justin Harris: “Steak generally has generally higher calories. It has saturated fat which gets converted to cholesterol, which gets converted to androstenediol, which gets converted to testosterone. For some competitors, natural competitors, that’s very important. But the other thing with steak… steak has a slightly lower bioavailability than chicken but the protein ratio is better for raising iron levels. If you can increase the iron level , it increases your hematocrit (the amount of red blood cells in your blood, which) you can increase your blood volume, which can give you a fuller look. You look at your bicep and only about 30% of your bicep is actual contractile tissue, actual actin and myosin. If you dehydrated it out… look at beef jerky. That’s the actual amount of actual tissue in the area. The rest of it is water, glycogen. If you can double the amount of blood vessels and double the amount of blood going through those blood vessels in your bicep, that’s going to add size to your bicep, and that’s something [a benefit] of the iron from steak.”

Steve Kuclo: “I’m a big fan of feeding a muscle as fast as you can after a workout. If you can [eat post-workout] the sooner the better, if it’s a meal or a shake. If you can afford a specialized shake, your branched-chain and glutamine ratio is going to be higher in a lot of those shakes because of the specialized amino acid profiles.”

Jeff Dwelle: “I will have a shake, usually whey protein, some carbs; probably because I just like the way it tastes and its simple and it digests quickly. I have that immediately after training. And then I will eat a whole [food] meal sixty-to ninety minutes after that.”

These are just a fraction of the wisdom shared. I recommend that you purchase the DVD of the entire seminar, which I have conveniently reviewed below 🙂

Metroflex Bodybuilding Seminar DVD – Volume One Review

As a voracious reader and gluttonous consumer of info products, I like to share my finds with like-minded lifters. There are some impressive products out there but, with every nutrition expert, guru, strength coach or national contender waving a product in the air, our Paypal accounts can only be spread so thin and we have to discriminate where we are going to send our hard-earned dollars.

This is therefore a REAL REVIEW. What you commonly read in the magazines are not actually product reviews, they are press releases reprinted as part of an advertising package.

For those of you not familiar with me, I have a reputation for journalistic integrity unmatched in our industry (which means I’ve taken the moral high ground and paid for it) and that’s not something I intend to ever cash in.

So consider this a completely unbiased review:

This hour-long seminar DVD was put together by Greg McCoy, the owner of Metroflex Gym in Plano, Texas. The seminar features Justin Harris, Steve Kuclo and Jeff Dwelle. Justin Harris is known as one of the smartest power bodybuilders and nutritional theorists in the industry. He understands both the science of bodybuilding nutrition and the reality of a 600-pound deadlift. Steve Kuclo (at 24-years old) is a bit less seasoned but is the rising star of the group, expected to break through at the national level in the next few years. I was not familiar with the third speaker, Jeff Dwelle, who is a Texas-based competitor and contest prep coach. He was a great addition to the roundtable with some insightful views and a gift for boiling topics down to useable strategies.

The seminar was a Q&A roundtable, which is one of my personal pet peeves. No offense to the three speakers here or the seminar promoter, that’s just the way bodybuilding seminars are done these days , which I think is why they have dwindled in attendance from the crowd they would pull two decades ago.

I would have preferred thirty-minute focused and prepared segments of, for example: 1) Justin Harris on setting up a carb rotation diet, 2) Steve Kuclo explaining training strategies, and Jeff Dwelle discussing pre-contest dieting, and  4) a wrap-up Q & A segment. Of course, the fact that I wanted the seminar to be longer in length says that the content was exceptionally good.

If a couple experts at the level of these three showed up with a polished, entertaining presentation (overhead projector presentation, handouts, etc.), they would help elevate the seminar concept and make it a viable money-making avenue once again. So the responsibility for good content is shifted to the attendees to ask decent questions, which almost never really happens.

Fortunately, these three speakers have a lot of insights (as you will see above) so quality came out regardless.  And this is just a smattering of the info that these three experts share.

While the production value is nothing special (but certainly not bad), Greg is offering the DVD at an incredibly affordable price (just $10.00 plus shipping), which to be honest, is pretty much giving it away. I assume he just wants to get the word out about his new Metroflex, which I hear is a great place to train.

With most similar DVDs selling for three to four times this cost, you owe it to yourself to add this to your library. Even if you just pick up a couple ideas (or have a good idea reinforced) it is well worth the price and thats why I have given it an official rating of four out of five plates.

To order, check out the MetroFlex Store and I’ll leave you with a trailer video of the seminar:

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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 – The Best Bits & Review of the Metroflex Bodybuilding Seminar 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.

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

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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.


Bench Kings – Learn from the Pros

In high school weight rooms around the world, the bench press reigns supreme.  While the squat and deadlift have great athletic carry-over, the bench press has earned a spot as the definitive gauge of upper body strength.

Even though the bench seems like a deceptively simple “push a bar off your chest” exercise, BP specialists could spend weekends palavering about methods to improve their press.

I got on the phone with a half-dozen of the best benchers in the biz, picked their brains (they were surprisingly generous in sharing their secrets), and was rewarded with some useful tricks and techniques to help anyone go from benching a weight that weenies might use for curls to driving up a bar that rattles a bit.

Here’s our all-star line-up:

A.J. Roberts, one of the great lifters from Westside Barbell, is chasing after a 2800-lb total (with current lifts of a 1035 squat, 820 bench, and 760 deadlift). In just two years at Westside, he has seen his total climb by almost two hundred pounds, and his big bench is a large part of that.

Ryan Celli is a dangerously strong 198-pounder with an all-time record raw total of 1840. His best raw single lifts (not all at the same meet) include a 625 squat, 534 bench, and 685 pull. His single-ply total of one ton is comprised of a 705 squat, 622 bench, and 672 deadlift, built over his two decades of competition.

Having held the all-time world record total of 2605 (in the 275 class), Scott Yard has posted a 1050 squat, an 840 bench, and a 720 deadlift. Switching over to raw meets, he has boasts an equally impressive 750 squat, 505 bench, and 755 deadlift.

Travis Bell is another Westsider with a raw bench in the gym of 540 lbs (at a body weight around 250) and an amazing contest-equipped bench of 770 (weighing in at 258).

Vinnie Dizenzo considers himself a strength athlete cast in the old school definition of the term. His lifts of a 605-lb raw bench (as a super-heavy), shirted benches of 820 (in the 308-pound class) and 730 (at 242), a strict overhead press in competition of 405, and an 800-pound trapbar deadlift in competition validate this beyond dispute.

APF and WABDL lifter Adrian Larsen has numerous state, national, and world records to his credit and recently has benched an imposing 710 pounds (weighing 259).

If there were a United Nations of strength, these men would be the Warrior Kings of the bench press. The sum of their applied knowledge distilled here can help you make the leap to a higher level of bench press prowess.

Adrian Larsen – APF and WABDL lifter with a 710lbs bench to his name

TAKING STOCK

Anyone that has put in some time in the gym knows that genetics play a huge part in how strong you can get, and when we are talking about on specific lift, body mechanics and leverage are a major part of that. As Travis Bell shares, “I am five foot nine, have short arms, and I’m pretty thick, so my range-of-motion is a lot less than a lot of the full-power guys that have exceptional deadlifts.”

Adrian Larsen goes on to say, “I would have to rank my mechanics for the bench as definitely a ten. I do have some disadvantages. I was born with a dislocated hip so I can’t put my feet down on the ground. That is a huge disadvantage. I just put my feet straight out, but as far as how my body is built, I am pretty barrel-chested, and I can bench as wide as legal. I think I was built to be a big bencher.”

For those without the typical bencher’s build, the advice from our panel was universally echoed. Scott Yard says it best: “I’m 5’8” and have short arms, so my body mechanics are good for benching. When someone asks me how to increase their bench, I tell them to gain twenty pounds. That’s a sure-fire way to make your bench move.”

Ryan Celli concurs, “Someone with long arms is going to have to build up their arms to make them thicker and add some mass to their frame.” For the full meet lifters, of course, arm length has its pros and cons. “I don’t have excellent mechanics for any of the lifts,” says A.J. Roberts. “I just have good mechanics for all of them. I have good leverages for everything, which equals a good total.”

“As an adult, I have been as light as 190 pounds and as heavy as 329,” says Vinnie Dizenzo. “The leverages that I have now, I created for myself.” This speaks to the concept that you never know what you are capable of until you try. “Don’t use your body leverages as a cop out. When I look at a guy like Garry Frank, who is incredibly tall with very long arms but is still capable of benching huge numbers, it’s a reminder that people can overcome anything.”

“Mechanics help you to an extent,” Scott Yard adds, “but it comes down to how hard you are prepared to work to get better.”

Ryan Celli – Big Bencher

SETTING UP THE BENCH

The quickest way to increase your bench press is simply to start doing it right. Proper form, based on your specific needs, allows you to exert maximal strength while moving the bar a minimal distance. “Once guys get really strong using poor technique, it’s really hard to change that,” says Travis Bell. “It’s good to get really sound technique in the beginning stages, although it might slow the initial speed of your progress. Ryan Celli is a prime example of the payoff to this. If you watch ANY of his lifts, they are picture perfect. His strength is a production of that technique added to his training ethics.”

As Ryan Celli says, “For every lift, you have to start from your feet up”, but there is some variability in how lifters do this.

“There are two ways to set your feet. One is tucked up underneath you, which you see a lot of guys do. I used to do this, but what I found was that it was pretty unstable,” says A.J. Roberts. “If you get to rocking from side to side, it’s hard to keep your balance, so I have my feet out in front of me, basically creating a solid base with my feet. The whole part of the press starts with a foot drive, pushing the heels into the ground. Once you have that solid base, you shouldn’t be able to move anything. You should be rigid.”

Roberts goes on to say, “You have to create what I call a platform shelf that you bench off of. When you bench press, you need to squeeze your shoulders together and make sure your upper back is completely on the bench, otherwise you get a lot of shoulder rotation, so you can move your shoulders up and down. What that is going to do is make you lose force through the shoulder when you press the bar. If you have them pinched under you, giving you a solid base with no movement in your shoulders, there is no place for that force to go but through the bar.”

“You want a slight arch in your lower back,” Roberts continues. “Everyone is different as far as how much arch they can get. It really depends on how you are benching, if it is really beneficial. You really want to arch your mid to upper back if you can, but it takes a lot of practice.”

Scott Yard adds, “I have a very simple setup. Bench-only guys can afford the expense of a setup with an arch that is eight inches off the bench and having their feet back real far, but when it comes to full power, you can’t do that. I use more of a conservative bench setup because I still have to pull three deadlifts.”

A.J. Roberts goes on, “Once you have that set, the next is bar placement in your hand. You want to have it low in your hand, basically in a straight line, with your wrist as straight as possible. Thumb is always wrapped, otherwise you don’t activate all of the muscles you can, especially the bicep muscles. You want the forearm to be straight up, straight down. Basically, you bring the bar out and lower the bar down onto your lats. It’s kind of hard to explain but [in regards to] your wrists, you will notice that if you squeeze your pinkies, you elbows turn inwards, and that’s the position you are going to bench from.”

“Your grip should be the absolute widest you can go,” Travis Bell adds. “I very rarely have anyone use any less than index-on-the-rings, and the few individuals that had to were guys with very narrow shoulders. If some guys could just learn to go with the wider grip and then tuck their elbows a little bit more, forcing your shoulder to stay in tight, it will decrease your range of motion by two or three inches, and that can easily be the difference between making a lift and not finishing one.”

Vincent Dizenzo – Benching 605lbs RAW

PUTTING TOGETHER YOUR TRAINING PLAN

The amount of variability the lifters used in their training surprised me, probably driven primarily by their personality type. Some prefer a solidly constructed template while others (particularly Ryan Celli) train in a less organized manner. With two of the six (Travis Bell and A.J. Roberts) as members of Westside Barbell, most of the readers of this are very familiar with Louie Simmons’ proven techniques. Scott Yard and Adrian Larsen follow many of the WSB concepts but seem to find that they do better if they limit the amount of dynamic work. Vinnie Dizenzo has used a number of different protocols in the past but currently follows a block periodization plan.

“My bench workouts have run the gamut,” Dizenzo says. “I’ve done Westside. I’ve done block periodization. I’ve done Metal Militia. I think any program with a little science or thought behind it works if you implement it and follow it properly. I don’t rethink programs. If I decide I’m going to do Wendler’s 5/3/1, I do 5/3/1. If you think you know more about lifting than the people that have poured years of knowledge into these programs, then you are fooling yourself.”

“I train simple and based on feel,” Ryan Celli says. “I do my own thing, a combination of everything I have learned. I do speed squats and use bands and chains, which is sort of Westside, but it’s all modified to fit what works for me. I do more bodybuilding type stuff than the average powerlifter. I think it works all the stabilizing muscles and keeps everything in balance. I want to look like I lift too.”

For A.J. Roberts and Travis Bell though, they worship at the Westside altar as disciples of a church that has canonized more saints of power than any other gym in the world. As the man that most people in powerlifting consider their messiah (especially after the reverse hyper has rescued you from severe back pain), Louie Simmons has developed a system with four primary workouts each week divided evenly between squat/dead and bench sessions, with one session of each devoted to max effort (heavy near-limit poundages) and one devoted to dynamic training (lighter weights explosively pushed for speed).

AJ Roberts with his mentor Louie Simmons

A recent adjustment to the Westside protocol that is followed by both Bell and Roberts is greater variety in the max effort exercise. “We found that because of the level we are at, it keeps shocking the body and works better,” says A.J. Roberts. “Usually we rotate between full-range, a partial-range, and then a shirted bench. For example, week one might be hanging reverse blue band bench press. Week two might be a floor press, and during week three we would be in our shirts, pressing against bands or against chains.”

“A lot of the Westside techniques are individualized,” says Travis Bell. “On our max effort movement, we will hit a five-pound PR and then usually hit a second pressing movement, whether that is a couple of down set with the same setup and a little bit lighter weight, or we’ll do some shoulder pressing work. Then we will proceed on to our triceps work, which is usually something like Tate presses or rolling dumbbell extensions, or JM presses with different bars or with kettlebells hanging from them, perhaps using the football bar. We usually do two triceps exercises of four to six sets and six to eight reps. Then we move on to upper back and delt work with some rear delts. We usually do a rowing movement and then a pulldown movement and then something like band pull-aparts or reverse pec deck.”

“The whole thing takes 45 minutes to an hour,” Roberts says. “On shirted day it takes a little longer, but on other days we go pretty fast, back to back.”

Roberts continues, “On dynamic day, we start out with a speed movement; typically its 40-50% of our raw bench press and done with resistance, mini-bands, or chains. We rotate bars each week too, so we use a fat bar, skinny bar, football bar. For example, we might do a regular bar with mini-bands doubled on it and do nine sets of three there and go on to something high-rep, like an incline bench press. We finish up with a triceps compound exercise, which is three exercises together. We call it crazy eights. We use an ez-curl bar and do eight extensions, eight rollbacks, and eight close-grip presses. Then I do a little extra back work — some pulldowns and some shrugs.”

“For our dynamic effort day,” Travis Bell says, “Louie has had me cycling between eight sets of three and then seven to eight sets of five reps. We have been doing triples for so many years, we needed a change. We concern ourselves more with the speed that we are using to move the bar, not the weight, because we want to train that explosive response while keeping good form.”

Vinnie Dizenzo, however, has been training using a block periodization program. “I like the amount of volume. It has two bench days. Even though I am 41, I want to get bigger and more muscular, and I think the volume from block periodization will do that for me.”

When asked to describe it, Dizenzo says, “You train in blocks and it’s based on percentages, working off of Prilepin’s chart. The beginning month you do high volume, so the weight is going to be lower, with you doing a lot of sets, a lot of reps, and a lot of assistance work. Then you deload for a week to give your body a little bit of a break. Then you gradually train a bit more specifically to your competition lift. The volume will decrease as the weight gradually goes up. The assistance work is more tailored to the completion lifts you will be doing. You do a second deload week, and then for the last block you do very high percentages, near your max, for fewer sets and reps and very little assistance work. At the final stage, you just do assistance work that specifically assists you with recuperation from the heavy training.”

Vincent Dizenzo – Gearing up for a big bench

Showing the individuality of the athletes, Ryan Celli says, “I train heavy most of the time. I tease a lot of the guys about doing the deload thing. Everyone is deloading all the time, but I just go by feel. If I feel strong, I go heavy. I don’t know if that’s always the right thing to do.”

Celli does eight to ten sets of bench press, going almost entirely by feel. “After benching I will do one or two chest exercises, something at an incline, whether it’s a barbell, dumbbell or log, and then some kind of isolation exercise for the chest, like cable crossover, pec deck, and flyes.  Then we do shoulder work, which for me is just one movement for three to five sets, something overhead. Seated dumbbell presses are maybe 90% of my shoulder work. I do triceps also that day, which by that point don’t need too much. I will do at least one exercise, maybe two. For the first I might do five sets of something, for the second exercise I might do two sets.

“I’m not big on speed work on the bench,” Celli adds. “I might only do it once every three months for variety. It aggravates my elbows, even with band tension. For someone benching raw, I don’t see the benefit from it. If they are going to bench a second day, I think they would be better off doing three sets of eight with 50% of their max just to get the volume and some blood in there while working on their technique.”

Adrian Larsen has come to the same conclusion. “I am a firm believer in NOT doing a dynamic workout every week. I feel it’s really hard on your joints, so doing that every ten days to two weeks is preferable. I do feel quite a bit stronger on my max effort day following a dynamic session, but I think it’s very important to give yourself the time off. I also think people go too heavy on their dynamic days. I have yet to get injured since I made that adjustment. If you work out as hard as powerlifters work out, you need that rest.”

“My first day of the week will be my max effort day,” Larsen explains. “Two days from then, I will either do my dynamic day or a shoulder/back training day, and those two will just alternate. I change my assistance exercises every three weeks and do somewhere between four to seven movements after I’m done benching. Some of my regular choices include grip work, floor presses, JM presses, Tates, incline pressing, dumbbell pressing for reps, shoulder lockouts.”

Scott Yard follows a similar basic approach. “I only train twice a week because I tore my biceps tendon seven months ago, and that has limited the movements I can do. I had to modify things. I use a basic periodization because working with sub-maximal weights for higher reps allows me to train without tearing my body up. I believe in ‘train a little, rest a lot.’”

The average workout for Yard takes about fifty minutes and would start out with flat bench. “I don’t believe in a ton of warmup sets. I work up to one top set. It may be 425 for a set of six. I then switch to triceps. I might do a strict dumbbell triceps extension for a few sets, then do some lat pulldowns, and then finish up with shoulder work, which is front, side, and rear raises. For the assistance work I do three sets of about eight reps.”

FIND A MENTOR

Looking at the lifts accomplished by these champions, all applying similar methods in different ways, makes it obvious that in order to build a big bench, you must both become a student of powerlifting as well as find out exactly what works for you.

The next step for you is to find people in your area who you can learn from. “When I started to become a bench specialist, I was commuting about an average of eight hours a week to train with Bill Crawford and Glen Chabot,” says Vinnie Dizenzo. “If you are serious, find a coach.”

Adrian Larsen agrees, but adds a caveat, “Typically when people go in and start training with other lifters, they try to keep up. Work within your abilities and make goals for yourself.”

Scott Yard tells a similar tale. “I sought out the best people in the area. When I first started squatting, I would drive two hours to train with a guy that was a 1100-pound squatter, and it made my squat go up about two hundred pounds. You have to surround yourself with big, strong people that know what they are doing.”

WRAP UP

Take these lessons from Ryan Celli, Travis Bell, Scott Yard, A.J. Roberts, Adrian Larsen, and Vinnie Dizenzo and apply them to your bench training. See if you can build a bench press that has younger lifters asking you how you became a king of the bench!

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 – Bench Kings – Learn from the Pros 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.

Cardio 101 – Exploring Steady State, Complexes & High-Intensity Interval Training

Everyone hates cardio.

Well some people have embraced it – first as a necessary evil to reach a specific fat loss goal, then eventually as an OCD-driven compulsion, afraid that they are going to reach “lifted out of the side of the bedroom by a crane” levels of obesity if they miss two cardio sessions in a row.

Okay, perhaps I am exaggerating. The truth is, that MOST of us aren’t cardio fans, but do see the usefulness of it.

I listened in once as two friends of mine had an interesting debate on cardio. Both were exercise phys students, one coming from the endurance sport world and the other a competitive powerlifter. The 158-pound triathlete said, “I want to be functional. With all due respect, at 262-pounds you could not run if you had to.

My other friend grinned and said, “At 262-pounds, I never NEED to run from anything.

I suspect that most of us nod our heads in agreement but also understand that, for longevity’s sake, we sometimes need to lean out and step up onto the treadmill, bike or elliptical.

Skim through any issue of Powerlifting USA and you see practically an ongoing-obituary column (many from cardio-vascular disease) and a recent trend for top powerlifters to enlist bodybuilding coaches like Justin Harris, John Berardi or Shelby Starnes to cut away excess weight. The combo of good diet and fat burning cardio has them looking better, lifting strong in lighter weight classes and hopefully living longer.

The Devil, broken down into 3

With cardio, we have three major styles: steady-state, anaerobic complexes and high-intensity interval training (HIIT):

Steady-State Cardio

Once considered the king of aerobic fat-burners, steady-state cardio (long, slow sessions geared towards keeping your heart rate within a particular fat-burning zone) has fallen from its lofty perch in recent years. Why? Quite simply, its ability to preferentially burn bodyfat stores (in contrast to stored glycogen or aminos) just has not been shown to reliably work. It does little to affect EPOC (Excessive Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) which has a much bigger effect on fat burning long after the workout ends.

When is it used? It is good for the first two weeks of the program for those that are “aerobically-deconditioned.” Go for 30 minutes at fast walking pace. Use breathing as your barometer of pace. The old rule “walk at a pace that allows you to converse,” is good advice.

Metabolic Training Complexes

These are the current king of lean muscle cardio protocols, which is why you see them used to get Hollywood stars (like the cast of “300”) into action hero shape. Metabolic Training is short and intense and, best of all, is not done on a treadmill or stepper.

This involves the performance four or more bodyweight or weight training exercises in giant-set fashion. This is similar to the GPP/Core Series I have recommended in previous articles as a pre-workout warm-up, except you will be using heavier weights.

Kettlebells (see Kettlebells for the Uninitiated) are particularly well-suited to this type of training since they allow for fast lifts (KB Snatches, Swings or Squat Thrusts) that don’t require years of biomechanics training with an Olympic coach. Rep speed dramatically impacts the effect on your metabolism. Doing snatches with a pair of 45-pound kettlebells moves a lot of weight from floor to overhead at a fast pace. Try one minute of these and they will get you sucking air hard.

KettleBells – A good choice for Complexes

To setup a metabolic training complex, choose a handful of compound exercises that work a majority of the prime movers of the body in one series.

For example:

1) Push-ups
2) Burpees
3) Dumbbell Clean-and-Press
4) V-up Leg Raises
5) Under-grip Chins

Move directly from one exercise to the other (no rest) and do three to four of these series with a 60-90 second rest period between them (no rest between exercises).

When doing these for metabolic conditioning, I recommend 6-10 reps (you can go higher in reps with some exercises that rely on bodyweight, such as chins, push-ups). You can also mix sprints or jump-roping between each exercise for variety.

Metabolic training complexes tend to be best for days off, particularly the second day of a two-day gym break. They may be too intense for a first thing in the morning workout following a low carb day.

For a more in-depth article on Complexes, check out Complexes for Fat Loss.

HIIT – High-Intensity Interval Training

HIIT is the bodybuilder’s choice for fat- burning. It involves periods of sprints (60-90 seconds) interspersed with recovery periods of 60-180 seconds in which you just walk at a fast pace.

If you are like me, you will enjoy the fact that, while steady-state cardio doesn’t seem to cause you to breathe hard or break a sweat until 6-7 minutes into the workout, the first sprint of a HIIT session while get you further into the sweat zone than you ever get in a steady-state session. Twenty minutes is plenty of time to get it done with HIIT. As you progress, increase your speeds in both the sprint and recovery phases, increase sprint times, and reduce recovery periods.

The beauty of HIIT is that it is “front loaded.” By that, I mean that you have the advantage of reaching a metabolically stimulating state faster. I find with steady state cardio it seems to take eight to ten minutes for me to even feel a significant increase in my core temperature or respiratory rate. With high-intensity interval training, I am gasping for air after my first sprint interval.

For those new to HIIT, we want to give you some basic progressions to break into it gradually. While lifters have the natural tendency to rush everything, there is something to be said for working your way patiently through the levels. You may be able to jump into Level Five on your first day, through sheer force of will, but the speed of your sprint and moderate phases will be slower than they would be if you had let yourself build conditioning.

Also, why do more than you require if you are enhancing your conditioning and burning fat with a cardio session of lower intensity and duration? It’s like swatting a mosquito with a sledgehammer.

Keep in mind that, although we use the term “sprint,” HIIT Cardio does not need to be done through jogging (on a track, trails or treadmill). You can just as effectively perform it on an elliptical, bike, Airdyne, rower, stepmill or whatever cardio device you prefer.

High-Intensity Interval Training – Basic Progressions

The Warm-up period is a gradual increase in rate to warm-up to the moderate jog.

Moderate varies widely depending on your conditioning. At Levels One through Three, this is the fastest walk possible without breaking into a jog. At levels Four and Five, it is a slow jog done at whatever pace allows you to recover from your sprint.

High is full-on, gasping-for-air sprinting, whether one a track, treadmill, bike or elliptical.

The Cool down is a self-explanatory two-minute period to reduce your heart rate slightly and ease back into the non-jogging world.

These are just examples, and you can adapt as needed. Once you reach whatever level you choose to end up, you can continue to intensify things by increasing the speed of you sprint and moderate periods. The best way to do this is to make a goal of increasing the distance covered in the time allotted, even if just by a tenth of a mile.

Consider doing your cardio outside – you may even run into a chick like this!

Putting it all into Practice

The best strategy is to cycle different cardio styles into your week, two or three HIIT sessions with a couple longer, steady-state sessions with perhaps a session of anaerobic complexes with the prowler/kettlebell/bodyweight exercises on the weekend for variety.

As far as timing of your sessions, the important part is that you do them. In a perfect world, you would do steady-state after your strength training to take advantage of the depleted glycogen levels. Anaerobic complexes and HIIT sessions however, focus on creating a metabolic effect through EPOC (excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption) so they should be done separate from your strength training sessions by a few hours.

Basically, steady-state cardio burns most of its caloric expenditure during the cardio. The complexes and HIIT create a metabolic demand on the body and cause an increased calorie burning effect for a number of hours after the session. Therefore, a 7:30AM weight training session followed by a 6:00PM HIIT session boosts the metabolism twice in a day (elevating it at a significant level all day).

Give these ideas a try and you may find that not only are you in better condition (both aerobically and bodyfat-wise) but the challenge may make you hate cardio a little bit less!

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 – Cardio 101 – Exploring Steady State, Complexes & High-Intensity Interval Training 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.

Get Real

Bodybuilding magazines — pro or con?

I find that I ask myself that question often. Do the mags serve their purchasers by providing useful info, motivating stories and inspirational photos or do they erode enthusiasm, misinform readers and develop expectations that are unrealistic?

Let examine the goals of bodybuilding magazines. First off, as in any business their goal is to turn a profit. In the muscle mag industry, that entails revenue from advertising income and/or the sales and promotion of in-house products.

The early Weider magazines promoted both Weider Nutrition products and the IFBB, which they controlled. In its heyday Muscular Development was owned and served as a marketing vessel for Twinlab, just as Muscle Media 2000 operated to promote EAS. With plenty of competition on the newsstands, they need to grab the reader’s attention and the best way to do that is to promise them their deepest wish… preferably delivered quickly with next to no effort!

Publishing moguls in the mainstream like Rupert Murdoch and William Hearst have turned over huge profits based on eschewing accuracy and journalistic integrity for raw sensationalism. Bodybuilding mags have followed that trend. Despite the formulaic regularity in which they each boldly declare themselves “the truth,” they all serve to propagate a number of dangerous myths.

Grabbing just the top twelve random bodybuilding magazines off my shelf I found the following cover blurbs:

  • Be a Friggin’ Freak! Smash Your Bench Up 100 lbs.
  • Rock Hard in Three Months
  • Fast Track to Growth
  • Strong & Ripped in 6 Weeks
  • Gain 10 lbs. of Muscle this Month!
  • You Can Look Great in Just 14 Days. Here’s How!
  • Huge Arms in 8 Weeks
  • Leaner & Stronger in a Month!
  • How I Built 23-inch Arms. Lou Ferrigno Did It — Here’s How You Can Too
  • Super-size You! 23 Pounds in 12 Weeks
  • Add Ten Pounds in 60 Days
  • 6 Weeks to Bigger Pecs and Delts

While some of these may sound possible (in the right situation), most of them seem incredibly improbable.

I doubt we can all build Ferrigno-sized arms and if any training program could make someone look great in just 14 days, then it would be an immediate international sensation and I doubt anyone in the civilized world would NOT look great.

What about the Internet? Do the online communities provide a more grounded, realistic approach to lifting? This, of course, varies. On many online bodybuilding forums it appears as if everyone on there is a self-professed genetic freak with single-digit bodyfat, powerlifting champion strength, and are just biding their time before claiming their pro cards. These sites also tend to be frequented by keyboard hit men anxious to blast newcomers rather than providing a supportive encouraging environment. With notable exceptions being in the minority, random online surfing can lead to a demoralizing experience.

Football is referred to as a game of inches, with every play being a tooth-and-nail battle for territory, driving towards a first down and eventually a touchdown. Similarly, training in the gym is a battle of ounces. Each five to ten-pound strength increase, added ounce of muscle, percent reduction in bodyfat brings us closer to our ideal. It is not a six-week solution or a three-month transformation. It is the cumulative effect of YEARS of consistent hard training and proper nutrition. It is the continued effort, the nearly imperceptible, gradual progress that brings about an impressive physique or notable lifting total.

Some Real World Examples:

Recreational Bodybuilder: Ryan

Ryan has been lifting for four years, beginning his junior year of high school and continuing on in college. A voracious reader of the bodybuilding magazines, he could recite the training programs (each bodypart) of at least a dozen top pros. Naturally skinny, he packed on about twenty pounds in his first six months training at home. While he was hesitant to declare his goals, he dreamed of winning an IFBB pro card.

Encouraged by the twenty pounds he gained, Ryan got a membership at a commercial gym and, using their equipment, was able to emulate the training of his pro role models. After three months, he noticed his interest in training starting to diminish, despite having four versions of lat pulldowns to choose from. He bought a fourth month pass at the gym but only used it twice the first week. He just was not seeing the progress that he expected and he started wondering if something was wrong with him.

After an extended layoff, he came across a small listing in the yellow pages for a fitness center one town over and went to check it out. He found a dusty cinderblock walled gym. Planning to just look at the equipment, he was called over to give the owner a spot since the place was empty and ended up working in with him. The still burning embers of his passion for bodybuilding reignited, he started a solid moderate volume no-BS program that the gym owner wrote up for him.

Ryan no longer buys the magazines or follows the top names in the IFBB. Although he made the huge twenty-pound jump in his first six months, he can credit himself with thirty-five more solid pounds in the four years he has been training. He realizes that he probably will never get on a bodybuilding stage, but people sometimes ask if he has ever competed. Most importantly he loves training and the way it makes him feel. 

Beware of following the flashy training routines by the top pros

Loser No More: Catherine

Catherine has always been heavy — not morbidly obese, but as her mother always said, “naturally big-boned.” Having never really been an athletic person, she was inspired by watching “The Biggest Loser.” Seeing average, unathletic types lose 50, 70 even 120 pounds in a ten-week period made her feel like she could make some real changes in her own body.

After three weeks of haphazard dieting and doing cardio work to the point that she felt like she was going to sleepwalk right onto a treadmill, Catherine topped out the scale without losing a single pound. She realized she needed a coach like the people on the show.

Catherine lucked out; getting a sensible trainer that was nothing like the over-the-top camera preening trainers on “The Biggest Loser.” He mapped out a basic, no frills program for her. He even pulled out a Time Magazine article that showed that the show’s Season One winner had gained back almost all of his weight (weighing in at 307), and stressed the importance of fitting a realistic program into her lifestyle, since she was looking for lasting change, not a temporary solution.

Catherine realized that even though she may not change overnight she loved the way she felt after a workout. Starting her day with exercise also made her naturally eat better. She didn’t feel the need to treat herself since life was feeling pretty good. Training became a part of her routine and she forgot about the scale… until the day came that she realized her clothes were no longer fitting right.

In three months, she had lost twenty-five pounds, although she felt stronger and could see some new muscle in her arms and shoulders. She realized she was not actually “big-boned,” that was just a euphemism for “sedentary with poor eating habits.”

Over the rest of the year she gradually lost fifteen more pounds and gained a little solid muscle. She found that she could treat herself from time to time and her new body burnt it off. She was enjoying the process and, although she did set goals for herself, they were reachable objectives based on changes she could live with without feeling like she was not able to enjoy life.

Slow and Steady: Mike

For Mike, weekend flag football was more about post-game beers and male bonding than athletic excellence. The fun and games came to a screeching stop once a bad twist of his knee sent him into physical therapy.

Not wanting to lose his ability to function, Mike dedicated himself to rehab and found that he enjoyed the process. Once he was released from therapy (or rather once insurance decided to release him), he was determined to continue lifting. With no gyms in the area, he lucked out and found a group of guys online that had pulled together to create a powerlifting gym in a rented two-car garage.

The four guys training in the morning crew were glad to have some new blood and their post-workout encouragement eased him past the intimidation of the hardcore environment. At first he mostly helped spot, load plates and learn proper form. His knee felt strong enough that he was able to pull a sled and do light squats.

Helping the guys from his crew compete in a local push/pull meet showed Mike what the competitive side of powerlifting was all about. While tightening the belt for his team-mate CJ, who was going for a record deadlift, the crowd got whipped up into a frenzy.

Struggling to lockout, CJ looked like he was going to fold when, from the back of the room, a bellowing voice screamed out. A barrel-chested mountain-man with a scraggly ZZ-Top beard and crazed eyes quickly staggered up the center aisle screaming, “DO IT! DRIVE THAT SONUVA…” It was the last bit of willpower that CJ needed and he drove his hips forward to be greeted at lockout by three white lights!

The grizzled veteran with the scraggly beard was on stage lifting CJ off his feet with a congratulatory hug, even though CJ’s record pull had just beaten his own previous effort that day. Mike saw that powerlifting is all about everyone helping one another become their best. He was instantly hooked and told his crew he wanted to compete at the next local meet.

His first goal was just to not bomb out and to get a thousand –pound total. Six years later, he is closing in on an elite ranking. More important than his totals, Mike has found a lifetime passion in lifting. His work problems seem pretty miniscule after a day that kicks off with a good box squat session. He has become a leader on the team and served as a mentor to new lifters that have joined the power garage. He doesn’t miss flag football. The team of guys he battles the iron with four to six days a week are closer to him than brothers. He considers his knee injury the best thing that has ever happened to him.

Six Keys to Keeping It Real

1. Don’t judge yourself based on the superstars of bodybuilding and powerlifting you see in the magazines (or the self-professed “uncrowned kings” professing their superhuman qualities online). If you compare yourself to others, you will always find yourself lacking.

2. While it is okay to set difficult goals for yourself, make sure they can be realistically achieved. Setting the bar too high and being overly self-critical can easily lead to burn out. If you want to choose a role model, consider someone with genetics closer to your level than Flex Wheeler, Dorian Yates or Chuck Vogelpohl. A local competitor or someone impressive at your gym might make a better choice.

Choosing Flex Wheeler as a Role Model may lead to unrealistic goals and disappointment

3. Take time to look back and appreciate the progress you have made and the things you have accomplished. Often it may seem like you have been grinding your gears but if you step away and look back over your progress from the time you started (especially for those of you that have trained consistently for years), your expanded perspective may give you reason to be very proud.

4. Be patient. Rome was not build in a day and neither was a gladiator physique. Powerlifting champion Robert Wagner once told me that the key to success in powerlifting was to stick with it long enough and minimize injuries. Given time you will build a huge total.

5. Enjoy the process. Hard work and fun do not need to be mutually exclusive things. If you don’t enjoy the gym, then maybe you should be doing something else?

6. If your genetic abilities are lower than average, you might not make it as far and it may take you longer, but you can create a better physique and what you accomplish will be more rewarding because of the effort you have put in.

Accomplishments are relative. Placing in the novice class in a small local show may mean as much to someone as winning his first Olympia meant to Jay Cutler. Getting down to eight-percent bodyfat with a nice V-taper for an island vacation may be as important to someone as getting a Muscle & Fitness magazine cover might be to someone else.

Follow these basic guidelines and over the course of your lifting career (while you may not ever build 23” Ferrigno arms), you will in time build a physique that may surprise you. Either way, I promise you that the rewards of hard training are more about the changes you make on the inside than the physique you possess or the lifting trophies that you accumulate.

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 – Get 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.

Rag on the Mags #6 – MuscleMag International: July 2010

‘Rag on the Mags’ is a feature in which we will to review the current crop of Muscle and Powerlifting publications as they come out each month (normally before they hit the newsstands).

The basic idea here is that we will present you with the CliffsNotes® of the pertinent info, allowing you to determine if it’s worthwhile for you to run a comb through your hair, head into civilization, and plunk down roughly six-bucks for the issue.

You can be assured that I have no agenda to give the thumbs up or down for a particular issue, I’ll just tell it how it is.

MuscleMag International: July 2010

Fresh on the stands, the July 2010 issue of MMI has the hardcore Fouad Abiad in a great most muscular shot by Jason Breeze. MuscleMag has been doing a distinct style of grainy high contrast black-and-white photography lately that suits guys like Abiad with grainy conditioning.

MMI was granted a quality resurgence a couple years back when they picked up Bill Geiger, Jimmy Peña and Peter McGough (all cut loose from Flex/ Muscle & Fitness during the AMI purchase of the Weider Publishing entities). It has classed-up the mag visually and added some meat and intellectual-quality to the content.

In their “First Set” section (a collection of short training info features), Peña gives us performance cues for the Reverse-grip Smith Bench Press (pg 61). He does a great job on all of these, making this perfect info for novices to training while providing enough in-depth info that veterans also find it useful. He follows up with “Back for Seconds” (pg 64) an article about the benefits of training the same bodypart twice in one day to shock the muscle into growth. The longer-lasting pump (due to the doubled sessions) triggers increased growth, according to uncited research. He advocated high (fifteen) rep sets with minute-long rest periods, which match that logic. In the “Strongman” column (pg 68), Peña explores training specificity for strength. He recommends low reps (4-6) with three to five minute rest periods for strength gains and cautions against an eclectic rep range if this is your goal.

In “Face Off” (pg 72), he pits standing lateral raises against those down leaning outward while holding a machine or rack upright. Peña give the edge to the leaners as he feels the range-of-motion targets the side delt better with less unwanted assistance muscles. Guillermo Escalante steps in to take some of the workload off of Peña with “Sports Med” (pg 74) in a feature on dealing with triceps pain. Some of his pointers… limit overhead triceps extension to just one or two movements, organize your split so that the triceps get at least 48 hours between pec and triceps sessions, and he goes over some ice and ibuprofen protocols.

In MuscleMag’s “Bodybuilders Kitchen” section, research-wiz Jordana Brown gives us some of the not so widely known benefits of one of my diet staples, grapefruit (pg 82). The bitter citrus has fat loss benefits, extends the biological activity of some drugs (I like it for its caffeine-kicker abilities), and increases the uptake of CoQ10, an effective antioxidant and heart heath nutrient that is as expensive as hell. 

We get a turkey portabella, spinach recipe from IFBB pro/chef Carlo Filippone (pg 84), a shake recipe with whey protein, tomato sauce and Tabasco that I’m too scared to try by Will Drury (pg 90), and a feature on HICA (Alpha-Hydroxy-isocaproic acid), a metabolite of Leucine by Dwayne Jackson, PhD (pg 92).

Dr. J tells us that HICA has demonstrated some anti-catabolic properties and affects on decreasing delay-onset muscle soreness. More research is needed before we can determine if these effects are significant enough to warrant use (or if they are greater than just Leucine or any Leucine-rich whole protein source).

In “Lone Star Arms” (pg 96), Lara McGlashan introduces us to Texas trainer Stephan Frazier, a guy with an aesthetic build and a solid set of choppers, that we see in detail in each grimaced, grunting photo. Perhaps I have not been following the rising amateurs in the sport since I was not familiar with Frazier but he has a bright future (once he gets the bloated GH-gut required in most pros).

Texas trainer Stephan Frazier sporting an aesthetic build

Jimmy Peña is back in “Back Blunders” (pg 110) exposing some of the common biomechanical errors made on lat day. You can stand in any busy gym and point out lifters making each of these mistakes and Peña clearly explains solutions.

As the most commonly used drug in the world, caffeine is prominent, garnering a feature in this month’s Muscle & Fitness and a Dwayne Jackson review in MMI (pg 124). Jackson goes slightly more in-depth and gives me just the justification I need to continue my addiction. Thanks for the co-dependent boost!

Caffeine – sleep is for the weak

Group Editorial Director Bill Geiger writes “Tri Hard with a Vengeance” (pg 132) giving us a pick-and-choose training program and performance points on the major triceps exercises. Ex-Hardgainer publisher Stuart McRobert writes “5 Keys to Being a Successful Bodybuilder” on page 146. These focus on providing basic mental strategies (commitment, goals, perspective, etc.) but it’s a good “gut-check” article.

Another ex-Weider guy Steven Stiefel writes “No More Achy Joints” (pg 180) in which he recommends implementing basic self-rehab moves, including some preventative exercise variances and the inclusion of a preventative glucosamine, chondroitin, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory supplement stack.

MMI kicks off its Hardcore Section with “Four-Alarm Quads” (pg 250) by Eric Velazquez. Kuclo is a fast-rising National-level competitor and paramedic (he works for the fire department as a paramedic, so the title is a stretch). Although the photos are not the best and Kuclo’s about four-weeks out of contest shape, this is a detailed feature for fans of Kuclo. He does vertical (overhead) leg presses in his program, which we don’t see too often due to the blood pressure effects.

An ex-DoggCrapp trainee, Kuclo has gone high-volume and pout on some size (although it may just be from the change since DC Training seemed to pack on lots of size on him during his time on the protocol. At 6-foot, 280, Steve is a big twenty-five year old with an IFBB fitness pro wife (Amy Peters).

Ex-DoggCrapp trainee, Steve Kuclo looking Jacked

Jimmy Peña writes “Pump Up the Volume” (pg 264) an extensive training program designed to gradually increase training volume, which is an aspect of training many overtraining-paranoid lifters neglect. This is a nice way to shock muscles into new growth for a short period. 

The rest of the mag is made up of pro athlete column (MuscleMag wisely passes by the usual choices and pick writers with unique personalities and something to say, Like Kamali, Stubbs, Dugdale and Johnnie Jackson) and I was glad to see Peter McGough with a “Muscle Buzz” gossip column (pg 330). This rounded out a very good issue!

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 – Rag on the Mags #6 – MuscleMag International: July 2010 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.

Rag on the Mags #5 – Power: June/July 2010

‘Rag on the Mags’ is a feature in which we will to review the current crop of Muscle and Powerlifting publications as they come out each month (normally before they hit the newsstands).

The basic idea here is that we will present you with the CliffsNotes® of the pertinent info, allowing you to determine if it’s worthwhile for you to run a comb through your hair, head into civilization, and plunk down roughly six-bucks for the issue.

You can be assured that I have no agenda to give the thumbs up or down for a particular issue, I’ll just tell it how it is.

Power: June/July 2010

I was pretty excited to read the fifth issue of Andee and Mark Bell’s Power Magazine, the first one I have seen. While the issue seemed a bit light at 52-pages, I’m okay with that since the content is strong. Better to have fifty-two quality pages than 300 pages of fluff and filler.

The magazine definitely has a polished layout, with great photography and the type of writing sought out by modern powerlifters. With this being their first issue with broad newsstand distribution, I suspect this is entirely the reason that Powerlifter USA has finally stepped into the twenty-first century. Lambert had better continue his recent improvements, because sentimental loyalty will only carry him so far. Power is making a powerful statement (pardon the pun) and he may have to hope powerlifters will patronize TWO mags.

Russian beast Konstantins Konstantinovs graces the cover and we get a feature (pg 28) by Michele Cooger. The photos by Latvian photographer Alexander Trinitatov are professionally done while capturing of the essence of hardcore training. This was a great story but could use some editing. Some of the words seem poorly translated. Phrases like, “Genetically, I am tended to it” and, “strain my abdominal muscles” when tense may have been the better translation. Regardless, the story is great and I have no doubt that Konstantinovs now has hundreds of US fans, me among them.


The Russian Beast – Konstantins Konstantinovs

My favorite part of the article was Konstantinovs’ attitude about raw lifting:

Before a set of 426 kg (939 lb.), I made up my mind for this weight, and my belt was lying in front of me. A weak man inside me whispered, “Put it on, it will help you,” but another part of me said, “Lift it without a belt or lose and go home.” And I went out and lifted without a belt. Only those who can overcome their fear and their uncertainty can be a success.”

Needless to say, Konstantinovs is a lifter’s lifter; the kind of guy you want to go out and share a bottle of vodka with. His training is also unconventional. He trains deads twice in thirteen to sixteen days, varying the routine constantly. He does two to four types of deads each workout, at various heights, grips and forms (Romanian, off boxes, etc.); the volume is based on his energy levels. His second DL session is speed work incorporating bands. Assistance work includes hypers, reverse hypers, rows and chins. His squats workouts are five to eight sets of five in Olympic-style. The second session incorporates bands. He trains bench every other day (for about fifteen workouts a month). He uses a narrow grip for sets of five to ten and considers bench a “rest day” compared to the squat and DL sessions.

AtLarge Nutrition Sponsored Athlete, Donnie Thompson boasts a 2,905lb total

Zach Even-Esh tells us about “Strength through Adversity” (pg 16) an entertaining tale about a guy named curls that illustrates to us, in typical Underground Strength Coach style, the mental ingredient to functional strength. Behemoth Donnie Thompson shows us some sleight-of-band in “Trickery: Get out of Pain, and Train,” a great rehab article on using bands to repair minor training tweaks and dings. Thompson knows because you don’t get a 2905 total without racking up some damage. The concept is further examined by Hoss Cartwright and Jesse Burdick in “Don’t be Soft” (pg 22), a Q&A format discussion of how these two lifters handle injuries. All three of these men pass on some great info.

Matt Wenning talks about the basics of his training in “Three Methods to His Madness”

For a switch in focus, hot blonde powerlifter Abi Grove is featured in “This Chick Can Kick Your Ass, and You May like It” (pg 34). Nice way to realign the stereotype here. Dan Harrison writes “Strongman: Is It for You?” (pg 35). Harrison feels that extreme sport involving snow, waves, bikes or skateboard are for pussies. Try lifting a 400-pound granite ball to head height or sprinting with three-hundred pounds in each hand. He does a nice job giving an overview of what strongman competition and training is all about. Bench freak Rob Luyando tells us his techniques to increase lockout strength in the bench (pg 40). You may want to try some of his protocol.

Sure as hell has done wonders for him. Ex-Westside, current Lexen Xtreme member Matt Wenning talks about the basics of his training in “Three Methods to His Madness” (pg 43). Wenning is quickly becoming one of the most respected strength coaches out there as well as a top-ranked lifter.

Lastly, the issue wraps up with “Get to Know… Strongman Karl Gillingham” (pg 50). Karl is a likable and character-driven champion. From the impression I get from the Gillinghams, if everyone in Wisconsin is like them, then they probably don’t even need a prison system there.

Matt Wenning talks about the basics of his training in “Three Methods to His Madness”

To say, I was impressed with this issue of Power would be an understatement. I’m normally full of critique but my only request here if to keep doing more of the same. Hopefully, Power will grow from a 52-page bimonthly to a 116-plus page monthly mag but I hope they do not attempt that until they are certain there will be NO loss of content or quality.

I plan to order the four back issues immediately. Check this mag out. You’ll be glad you did!

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 – Rag on the Mags #5 – Power: June/July 2010 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.

Rag on the Mags #4 – Muscle & Fitness: July 2010

‘Rag on the Mags’ is a feature in which we will to review the current crop of Muscle and Powerlifting publications as they come out each month (normally before they hit the newsstands).

The basic idea here is that we will present you with the CliffsNotes® of the pertinent info, allowing you to determine if it’s worthwhile for you to run a comb through your hair, head into civilization, and plunk down roughly six-bucks for the issue.

You can be assured that I have no agenda to give the thumbs up or down for a particular issue, I’ll just tell it how it is.

Muscle & Fitness: July 2010

The July issue of Muscle & Fitness rides the popular rise of mixed martial arts by having UFC badass Todd Duffee on the cover, doing his best Ivan Drago pose. Mike Carlson follows up (pg 126) on a profile of Duffee, who is known for scoring the fastest knockout in UFC history. Most of this feature is about the state of UFC and his place in it but a sidebar discusses his training, which includes a lot of agility and explosiveness training balanced by strength work such as snatches, heavy deadlifts, chins, lunges, rows, curls and pushing the prowler (often super-setting movements to increase work density). We get an overview of his nutrition plan with Jim Stoppani (da man!) pointing out the scientific rationale that Duffee may not have even been aware.

UFC badass Todd Duffee

Rob Fitzgerald explores the strength training program of high school champion football team Bergen Catholic (pg 64). I have an interest in athletic prep but I doubt this well-written article has much relevance to the average M&F reader.

“Real Men Do Circuits” by staff writer Joe Wuebben and Hollywood trainer Gunnar Peterson (pg 74) gives some interesting ideas for circuit training, something I am a big fan of for general conditioning and fat loss. The Cable Squat/Reach/Raise looks like a great exercise, bringing into play a lot of different muscles and possibly increasing hip mobility but I intend to tweak it a bit from what I see in the photos, since it looks like quite the testicle-splitter the way Gunnar sets things up with his unlucky demonstrator. It is similar in movement to a kettlebell swing. Their overall program involves using ten pretty-functionally-based exercises for about a dozen reps in no-rest circuit fashion. Three to four circuits and you’re cooked.

Wuebben follows up with “Abs by Force,” (pg 87) with the program design by Rob Fitzgerald. Wuebben bases his article on the sentiment (that I can strongly get behind) that abs need to be trained with resistance. Key features in this program are: build basic muscle with heavy compound movements to boost the metabolism, use and eclectic rep range and short rest periods. The full body cardio in the morning, weights in the evening routine is well-designed but the six-days a week training may have many on the verge of over training, even with the low daily volume, especially since the cardio is of the weight circuit variety.

Abs like these are built by training with resistance

“Countdown to Abs” (pg 104) is written by Sara Polston, RD and is a nice, short nutrition article. She give some of the typical recommendations (drink more water, cut calories, consume lots of protein, include healthy fats, cycle carbs — it would hardly be a useful diet without these old standards) but is not afraid to give specific strategies and numbers for intake.

Supplement guy David Barr gives us his pick of the best ab-whittling supplements in “Gut Punch” (pg 112). He focuses this article on products that have been shown by research to specifically target abdominal fat (including green tea, vitamin C, licorice extract, calcium, omega-3 fats and CLA). I have to commend M&F for supplement articles that do not bias readers towards any specific product line.

“Cover Model Abs” compiled by Mark Thorpe (pg 144) shares a variety of ab training secrets from popular M&F cover models, including Jim Romagna, Remy Feniello, David Kimmerle, TJ Humphreys, Brian Wiefering and Jeff Dwelle. Romagna believes in building abs through the stabilization of the torso in heavy core movements like heavy squats and deads. He believes that doing exercises standing, when possible, also contributes. In contrast, Feniello goes light for higher reps and emphasizes “feel” of a movement. Kimmerle goes simple with five basic exercises rotated and done one each day. Humphreys goes high volume with abs with short rest periods, training five days a week. Wiefering (who I’ve hung with a bit in the gym down in the Cincinnati area) finds the jumping in recreational basketball is great for abs but also does crazy high (2,500 rep crunch sessions from time to time).

Lastly, Dwelle (whom we plan to interview in the future does a simple leg raise/crunch over stability ball superset, advising readers to avoid oblique work as it only hurts waist taper.

In “Backup Plan” (pg 156) Rob Fitzgerald talks about developing the posterior chain, one of the most neglected areas for the average gym attendee. He includes quotes from a variety of trainers and they include a 4-day a week training program (with man-sized exercises like rack pulls, good mornings, box squats and glute-ham raises) that makes me think Fitzgerald comes from a football or PL background. I approve!

Matthew Sloan writes “Caffeine: A Love Story” and, as a java addict that often spends six-hour stints chugging murky liquid adrenaline at coffee shops while writing, I was glad to read about some of the positive benefits. He liberally uses quotes from respected researcher Jose Antonio (also a noted caffeine junkie). The results? Caffeine increases strength, endurance, fat burning, and alertness, alleviates symptoms of asthma (airway restriction) and boosts post-workout glucose replenishment. On the downside, they also tell us that caffeine will not, in fact, help us sober up.

Caffeine has many positive benefits

Jim Stoppani presents us with “Epic Fail” (pg 182), a scientific view of the benefits and guidelines on how to best apply various set-extension techniques such as drop-sets, extended sets, forced sets, negative reps, partial reps and rest-pause. The affect each of these techniques have on the hormones pertinent to weight trainers (GH, testosterone, IGF-1) were particularly interesting. Stoppani is not afraid to give specific recommendation on use of these techniques, making this a must-read.

Well, there you go. After being a bit critical of most of the previous magazines covered, I can’t say anything bad about this issue of Muscle & Fitness. M&F does a perfect job of straddling the mass market fitness and competitive bodybuilding worlds. While it may not be “hardcore” enough for some musclehead zealots, the solid info would serve them well. The inclusion of some moderately-muscled and marketable bodybuilders may also act as a “gateway influence” to introduce newer lifters to serious bodybuilding and powerlifting. This issue is worth picking up.

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 – Rag on the Mags #4 – Muscle & Fitness: July 2010 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.

Rag on the Mags #3 – Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness: August 2010

‘Rag on the Mags’ is a feature in which we will to review the current crop of Muscle and Powerlifting publications as they come out each month (normally before they hit the newsstands).

The basic idea here is that we will present you with the CliffsNotes® of the pertinent info, allowing you to determine if it’s worthwhile for you to run a comb through your hair, head into civilization, and plunk down roughly six-bucks for the issue.

You can be assured that I have no agenda to give the thumbs up or down for a particular issue, I’ll just tell it how it is.

Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness: August 2010

It has been awhile since I have picked up an issue of Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness, so I thought this new ongoing column might be a good opportunity to revisit the mag. Magazines covering drug-tested bodybuilding have a real tough battle, but these guys have hung in there as a quarterly mag.

Trying to sell natural bodybuilding to the teenage audience is a tough sell, with Kai Greene and Branch Warren posing in their full pharmaceutically-engorged, angrily-grunting, brains about to hemorrhage glory on covers on either side of the shapely middleweights adorning this mag. Okay, to be honest, there are not side-by-side, NB&F is jammed a row or two behind them in the dark recesses were low-distribution mags go to die.

It’s unfortunate, because the magazine provides role models that the average gym-goer could identify with, possessing genetics that are more in line with the norm (and, of course, expectations that are more likely to be met without the use of “enhancements”).

In order to make the move forward to bigger circulation, the first thing they need to do is drastically improve the magazine’s photo support. Many of the photos look a bit “off,” almost as if the person choosing them is selecting the worst photos from each photo shoot — weird facial expressions, bad angles, poor lighting, you name it. Many of the other photos are… well, just sorta gay looking — guys training in posing trunks or short shorts, smiling wistfully at the guy spotting them… I suspect the athletes are a bit embarrassed once their issue arrives on the stands. They have at least cut down on the excessive oil use from five to ten years ago. The photo of Clarence McGill on the cover with pink trunks on is a good example. It’s not screaming hardcore (at least not the hardcore we want to see in a muscle mag).

A little background on the machinations of NB&F. Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness is run by the Exercise Media Group. They also produce such watered-down duds as Exercise for Men Only, Men’s Exercise, and Best Body. The magazines are published by the elusive Cheh Low. I have never seen him make a personal presence in the magazine so I just picture him as Keyser Sözeh (as played by Kevin Spacey).

Following strategies from the Joe Weider playbook, they also started their own bodybuilding federation, the INBF (amateur) and WNBF (sort of professional with low price money).  This in itself is not a bad thing and should seem a step in the right direction. Natural bodybuilding is (much like powerlifting) fractured into dozens of federations, with every president wanting to be chief and various officials bickering over interpretations of the rules and drug testing procedures. Rather than covering all natural competitions (which would serve the athletes), they restrict coverage to their own competitions. Even worse, when their best athlete, three-time WNBF Universe winner Dave “Texas Shredder” Goodin appeared  in IronMan, which would have done nothing but served the cause of natural bodybuilding, Goodin was reportedly given a three-year suspension from their federation. Talk about a PR debacle!

Well, on to this issue. We start out with an editorial by Rich Fitter. I’m not sure when this guy took over from Steve Downs (as mentioned in my review of the May issue of Powerlifting USA, he is now the ad-man for MHP), but Fitter looks like a slightly younger incarnation of Downs. His bland writing and company-line spiel is identical. This editorial “Putting out the Fire with Gasoline” (pg 12) shows a lack of perspective on Fitter’s part.

He starts out talking about how diverse opinions are good, bemoans a negative forum post thread by an athlete critiquing the company-owned INBF/WNBF, and then states, “The editorial freedom I allow may create some waves among the bodybuilding community…” but that seems to be relegated to just the diet, supplementation and training aspects, certainly not any discussion on the operating procedures, rules or future growth with which the in-house federation is run. You have athletes dieting for twelve to eighteen weeks and training an entire year in prep for one of your contests. I think they have earned a say in their sport.

Dr. Joe Klemczewski has been a long-time contributor here and I was glad to see he was rewarded with an “Ask Dr. Joe” column (pg 16).

He is a WNBF pro known for his conditioning and his ability to get other drug-free athletes in top shape. In response to a carb intake question, JK gives a nice explanation of how carb restriction affects bodyweight via water loss and gain and how that can be misleading. He advocates controlled restriction of carbs, but warns that too excessive a restriction can be counter-productive. In another question, he is asked if there is really any difference between simple and complex carbs during when the carb gram content is identical. As an experienced dieter, JK explains the importance of volume as certain sources (rice, oats) are more filling. The mental aspects of dieting are therefore, every bit as important as the math.

“Supplements” (pg 18) by Rich Fitter is a raving endorsement for a MuscleTech product. Is it a coincidence that they bought 28 2/3 pages of ads (in a 152-page magazine) and he happens to like them? Is that what he was talking about with his “editorial freedom making waves in the industry”? Apparently so. 

WNBF pro Kurt Weidner discusses “Longevity” (pg 26) and how one must adapt their training to the advances of age (and repetitive stresses of the gym). He recommends the inclusion of therapy and preventative maintenance (unfortunately I have yet to meet a lifter that takes this seriously until their body sends them some sort of sign that its necessary). He recommends becoming a master of adjusting form, varying stance, line of pull or grip to work around minor strains and injuries, limiting poundages on exercises when necessary and compensating through higher reps are slower more controlled execution. His appeal for smarter training does not reveal any revolutionary ideas but it did reinforce some important concepts for old codgers like me.

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WNBF Pro – Kurt Weidner

In the rhetorically-titled “Want Bigger Biceps?” (pg 32) Sean McCauley rehashes some oft-told concepts beginning with the role of genetics as a limiter of biceps size and shape. He explains the need for using increasing heavier weight, sufficient rest and some lower intensity work to avoid over-use injuries but give no real practical applications, not even any guidelines.

WNBF World Champion Jim Cordova has a great build but in the photo used in his training column (pg 50), he bears a remarkable resemblance to American Pie’s Jason Biggs. Anywho… Cordova gives us a number of strategies for using push-up variants to build pecs (Just like Jason Biggs gave us a very strong reason to avoid eating pies). It was a well-written article.

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WNBF World Champion Jim Cordova vs. American Pie Star Jason Biggs

“Handling Losses” by WNBF World Champion Brian Whitacre (pg 56) gives a great perspective on how the champion does not rest on their laurels but use losses as impetus towards renewed improvement. In “Living the Dream” (pg 66), author Albert Khoury profiles Rob Moran, in a well-written story.  Shaun Clarida describes the training and nutrition adjustments he made in “Ventures of a World Champ” (pg 68). Laura Anne Rega gives us a profile on coverman Clarence McGill that is well-written. Albert Khoury profiles Best Body champ Amber Walker (pg 80) but the photos again hurt this feature and do no justice to the athlete (she suffers from the shiny forehead syndrome common here). Tracie Euker, in a feature by Pete Dombrosky (pg 104) escaped that same reflective fate.  These features are all light mixes of info and inspiration and may serve those wanting to follow in these athletes footsteps.

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Rob Moran

Dr. Joe Klemczewski returns in a research compendium “Science or Fiction?” (pg 74) and a revisiting of his previous article ten years earlier (I recall reading it) on “Non-linear Periodization” (pg 76). Dr. Joe really saves this mag and I particularly like the NLP article. He is a deep thinker with both the blend of academic study and gym-time observations that I appreciate.

Mary Gillis dispels “The Myth of the Fat-Burning Zone” (pg 108), although I’m thinking that has been dispelled numerous times long before this redundant article. The latter section of the magazine is basically fluff not worth pouring over in detail, unless you want to know how to make Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (Spoiler Alert! Greek Yogurt is the key).

Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness has the $6.99 cover price of the major magazines, but at roughly 150 pages it does not contain the polished presentation or meaty info to justify the expenditure. If Joe Klemczewski took a three-month sabbatical I don’t know that he would have a magazine to come back to.

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 – Rag on the Mags #3 – Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness: August 2010 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.