Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Drug free muscle building tip of the day.

If you do nothing else all day from a supplement or nutritional standpoint make sure you at least follow your workouts with a whey isolate and carbohydrate drink mix. (My favorite mix is AST Sports Science VP2 Whey Isolate, Micronized Creatine, GL3 L-Glutamine and a liquid carbohydrate like DGC.)

The post workout time period is the most important time of the day to supply vital muscle building nutrients to your system. Your body is in a state created by your intense workout where nutrient uptake capabilities are at there greatest. It is well documented that a post workout drink with VP2 Whey Isolate and a carbohydrate mix will "flip the anabolic switch" and accelerate muscle recovery.

Make sure not to skimp on your protein choice either. To ensure you get a quality protein it is worth the extra investment. Cheap/lower quality protein supplements simply will not give you the best results. After busting your butt in the gym why settle for a cheap/low quality protein? There is no question in my mind that VP2 Whey Isolate is the best one out there and has been the corner stone of my nutrition for the past 11 years.

To help support this point I have a great example. In our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy" there are two different phases of Stuart's transformation. In the first phase we simply focus on Max-OT and Max-OT cardio with not much attention to nutrition. The idea was to get Stu acclimated to the training methods to encourage some initial strength and muscle gains before we really hammered the diet. The only real nutritional practice I had him implement was making sure he bracketed his workouts (before and after) with VP2 Whey Isolate/Micronized Creatine/GL3 L-Glutamine and DGC.

The simple combination of Max-OT training, Max-OT cardio and bracketing his workouts enabled him to show an increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in body fat over a period of about 18 weeks. I don't have the exact numbers in front of me but his progress is detailed in the film by carefully administered bod pod measurements.

Granted, Stu's physical transformation was no where near what it ended up like after phase 2 of the film where we added strict attention to diet for 6 months, however, it does show that smart training with the Max-OT principles and this simple supplementation strategy can help you improve your body even if you don't pay much attention to anything else.

Believe. Achieve.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Keep it simple.

A lot of times I think drug free bodybuilders are "missing the dollars to pick up the pennies". (Paul Delia, creator of Max-OT, told me that saying years ago and I loved it so I've used it ever since!) Or in other words, they over analyze things when it comes to their workouts and thus waste a lot of mental energy and many times even impede results by implementing less efficient methods or not fully executing all the Max-OT principles.

The actual muscle building process is pretty simple and can always be traced back to the elementary pattern of stimulus and response. The muscle is stimulated to grow by heavy overload and the degree of response is then dictated by nutritional support and rest (recovery). When this cycle of stimulus and response happens over and over for months on end the muscle building magic happens but in order for the magic to happen you need to do a couple things.

One: Focus on heavy basic lifts (Max-OT style). Strive for continual overload by working to better your numbers each workout. This pattern of continual overload done over time will be the best catalyst for muscle growth.

Two: Be meticulous with nutrition, particularly in the 3 hour post workout time period. The more consistent you are with your nutrition day in and day out, the better your results will be. Great workouts with poor nutrition will equal mediocre results at best.

Don't be too analytical and over-complicate things. Keep the workouts simple. Basic lifts, heavy weight and hard work with the Max-OT principles will set you up for the best drug free gains. The rest will come down to nutrition and how good your habits are when you leave the gym.

Believe. Achieve.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

One from the archives!

While going through some photos to include in the posing DVD we are producing I came across this picture taken at the 1991 NPC Novice Michigan Championships (Redford Theatre). It was my first bodybuilding contest and I won the 18 and under division as well as the overall teen title. I was 17 years old and had been training serious for about 1 year.

A little history about the start of my bodybuilding career...

My brother Joe encouraged me to start weight lifting and he was my first training partner when I was 15. He had just moved back home to start a new job after being away for several years in college and graduate school. He and I went to the gym for one spring and summer. I absolutely loved it! Then my school started (fall of 1989 - sophomore year in high school). I remember I stopped working out and was busy with school activities including basketball. That's right, I was a basketball player prior to fully starting my bodybuilding odyssey.

The spring of 1990 after basketball season concluded is what I consider to be my true uninterrupted bodybuilding start. This time once I began I would never stop again.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Believe. Achieve.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Competitor Tip of the Day

A lot of drug free bodybuilders worry about timing their condition and peaking on the day of a show. They are often concerned about losing too much muscle and as a result they end up smooth and shy of great contest shape the day of the show. They are hoping that some last minute carb loading or sodium manipulation trick is going to make them appear shredded and rock hard. Then when they look smooth onstage you often hear them say they missed their peak or their carbs spilled over when the reality is they simply weren't lean enough to begin with.

Don't worry about losing muscle, don't worry about peaking too soon and don't waste your time studying what manipulation trick you are going to use the last couple days before your show. Instead be meticulous with your diet for 6 months prior to the contest. Hammer post workout nutrient timing, be focused on heavy Max-OT style training and work your butt off with short and intense Max-OT style cardio. (You won't have to worry about losing muscle when you follow these proven training methods and nutritional practices.)

You can not be too lean for a show and it is better to be "ready" earlier than later. For example, if you look great 3 weeks before the show you are only going to look better come the day of the contest if you keep executing and driving to get leaner. That being said, take advantage of every day you have during your pre-contest preparation with great execution morning to night.

If you are very very lean come the day of the show then some slight manipulation of sodium/potassium, water and carbohydrates may enhance your appearance onstage but remember if you are not super lean it won't matter anyway. If you are counting on some trick to make you appear razor sharp then you are barking up the wrong tree.

Believe. Achieve.


Monday, July 20, 2009

More thoughts on Max-OT/Over training.

I recently had another question posed about Max-OT verses other higher volume methods. This person is confused and wanted some assurance from me on the benefits of Max-OT. I thought I would share parts of the question and my answer as it is fairly common one and you may find it helpful.

Q: "....I think it's because I don't see anyone else train this way (Max-OT) but they all look really good so mentally I'm tempted to deviate. Another reason is that I was listening to natural bodybuilding radio show and there was a guest a on there who's a natural pro. He was talking about how high volume is the only thing that got his legs to grow....He also said he doesn't believe in over training but undereating and undertraining. I'm confused now cause I don't know what to believe..."

A: I couldn't disagree more with the statement that there is no such thing as over training. I think that is one of the biggest mistakes most natural bodybuilders make as well as the average person who is trying to change their body. They do too much. Too many sets, too many reps.

Over eating is a big mistake too. Too many calories, even if they are "good" calories will lead to fat gain and gaining fat has no positive effect on gaining muscle.

I believe Max-OT style training is the most effective method based on my own 20 year study with myself as the primary test subject as well as countless others I've instructed both directly and indirectly. Not just bodybuilders either. Take a look at what Stu achieved in our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy". His outstanding results were achieved by using the Max-OT principles of weights and cardio plus very smart nutritional practices. The same exact methods I followed over the last several years.

I've always said you can train other ways and achieve results. I trained more "traditional" by bodybuilding standards when I was a teen and through my early 20's and I did very well. However, the most productive years of my 12 year competitive career by far were after I adopted the Max-OT principles. I went from being a very good bodybuilder to becoming an outstanding bodybuilder that was good enough to place 4th in the light hvy division of the NPC USA and earn an IFBB Pro Card as a completely drug free competitor. Not many can make that claim.

In the end it is not my job to convince anyone. My job is to provide the information I feel will help people most. I have strong opinions based on 20 years of experience and my climb to the IFBB Pro ranks as a life time natural.

Follow what makes most sense to you. What ever you choose, you need to believe what you are following and not question so you can give it 100% every day.

Believe. Achieve.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Steroid free bodybuilding 101 - More is not better.

The steroid free bodybuilder needs to avoid the more is better mentality when it comes to set and rep volume as well as workout frequency. Over training is one of muscle buildings biggest enemies.

I see it all the time. The guy who wants bigger biceps going from exercise to exercise, rep after rep, set after set to exhaustion. The total workout time for that one body part is more than double one of my workouts for 2 body parts! This marathon approach is muscle building suicide.

One must remember when building muscle you need to stimulate growth by training a body part with heavy weights and basic lifts, Max-OT style. Then, as I like to say, the magic happens when you leave the gym and the muscle is allowed to recover and respond to the stimulus you created in the gym with all your hard work. Recovery is then maximized with proper nutrition and supplementation along with adequate rest between muscle specific workouts.

If you are drug free and going overboard with frequency you will not maximize your muscle building potential.

Believe. Achieve.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Keep it heavy and basic for greater muscle separation.

Even when you are striving for maximum hardness and muscle separation it is important to keep the weight training heavy and basic.

Don't fall prey to the notion that high rep training will some how etch in muscle detail or my favorite, "high reps will bring out striations." Neither of these is accurate.

Heavy basic lifts done Max-OT style will set things up so you continue to build or at minimum maintain muscle while smart and strict dieting along with intense cardio will melt away body fat and reveal the separation you desire.

Take hamstrings for example. Many times you see people doing all these isolation leg curl movements with high reps in the hopes they are going to achieve greater separation and detail. Early in my career I did the same thing. I always had a problem getting my legs to look hard and separated. I did countless leg extensions, leg curls, different glute exercises and still my legs never looked as separated as I had hoped. I achieved the greatest separation and development in my hamstrings towards the end of my career with stiff leg deadlifts as the only direct hamstring exercise that I did and I never went above 6 reps. It was the diet and cardio performed intelligently over a long period of time that produced the extreme hardness and separation.

Believe. Achieve.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Which training method is best?

Throughout the years I have received many of the same questions or variations of the same question over and over. One that pops up now and then involves people asking me what I think of "this" training method or "that" training method compared to Max-OT and do I really think Max-OT is the best one out there.

They say there is no such thing as a dumb question but I have to scratch my head every time I receive this one. If I thought there was a better training method wouldn't I have been using a different one than Max-OT all these years? That seems pretty elementary to me.

Sometimes its almost as if people are trying to debate or convince me there is a better way. Well, there are many training methods out there and each individual has the right to select and follow whatever they wish. I will also say you can train many different ways and achieve a degree of results. I do, however, believe Max-OT is the best way to train for maximum results. I believe this from my own personal success as well as the countless others I've instructed who've also achieved great success, male and female. (AST Sports Science provides the Max-OT online course for free)

My job is not to argue the merits of Max-OT. My job is to provide the most honest information I can that I believe will help you the most. When it comes to training I believe Max-OT is the best way to go and you are not going to get a different answer out of me no matter how many times or different ways you ask me the question.

Believe. Achieve.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Do I still train Max-OT style?

I often get questions about what my training and diet is like now that I have retired from competing. The most common is probably if I still train using the Max-OT principles. The answer is yes.

My physique goals are very different these days from what they were throughout my 12 year competitive career. The goal then was to maximize results and build every ounce of muscle possible. Now my physique goals are simply to maintain muscle, feel good and be healthy.

I feel my current goals are still best achieved using the Max-OT principles that I learned from Paul Delia, founder of AST Sports Science. The only difference between now and during my "hay day" is intensity. Instead of always striving to better my numbers each workout in the 4-6 rep range my weight selection is a bit more modest and I typically end up in the upper end of the range (6 reps). I still train each body part only once per week (usually over a 5 day period) and adhere to the Max-OT principles of exercise selection and set volume.

The next most popular question is about my diet. My diet is no longer structured like it was for all those years. I can't tell you how many calories or grams of protein I take in daily. I keep it pretty simple. During the week I eat clean trying to avoid excess calories. I continue to follow some important supplement timing strategies such as VP2 Whey Isolate, DGC, GL3 L-Glutamine and Micronized Creatine post workout and I still have VP2 and breakfast cereal first thing every day. Beyond that I use Muscle XGF as a meal replacement as well as VyoPro Protein Bars to help get quality protein throughout the day. I couple that with a one or two whole food meals that consist of a protein source and usually a salad to get some vegetables. When the weekend comes I eat pretty much like a normal human being would. If I want it, I eat it. This dieting pattern works well for me and has allowed me to enjoy life while maintaining my current physique goals.

My primary emphasis these days is more on the business side of things. I'm continually expanding my product line of instructional DVD's as well as my consultation service. I am also very busy as a small business owner/operator of my Powerhouse Gym in Adrian.

Looking back over the last few years I can definitely see how I've evolved in many respects yet also stayed the same. Now I am doing my best to use all that I have learned to achieve new goals and help others achieve as well.

Believe. Achieve.


Friday, July 10, 2009

NEW DVD - Coming Soon!

I'm excited to announce I'll have a new DVD ready for release within the next couple weeks. In fact, I am heading into the studio this afternoon to work on the finishing touches.

It is a Posing/Presentation DVD. The format gives you a unique "fly on the wall" perspective as I instruct amateur competitor Stuart MacDonald on the fundamentals of posing and presentation. You get to listen in and watch as I walk Stu through the mandatory poses, standing relaxed poses and a Q&A session where I discuss a variety of related topics.

Upon release there will be a special offer so stay tuned.

Believe. Achieve.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009


This picture has made its way around the web a few times and is usually followed by comments insisting the photo has been enhanced. It recently popped up again so I figured it was a good time to address it so you could hear the story right from the horse's mouth.

The photo was taken by a fan at the 2001 Arnold Classic Expo and although there turned out to be a bit of an illusion created it was not because of any enhancement after the fact. My arm looks extra large due to the angle the photo was taken NOT because of digital alterations. (My arms are not actually bigger than my head like they appear in this photo!)

So before someone else cries foul, take a deep breath. This is not a grand conspiracy, it's just a picture!

Believe. Achieve.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Compound vs. Isolation Exercises

I follow the Max-OT principles as detailed in my training DVD's and you'll see that the workouts are centered on basic compound movements and that I stay away from isolation exercises.

Compound movements are those that involve multi joints/multi muscles and allow you to achieve greater overload over a more natural range of motion as compared their isolation counterparts.

We could investigate any number of examples but let's look at biceps. Always choose movements like barbell and dumbbell curls over concentration curls or preacher curls. Barbell/dumbbell curls will allow you to handle more weight and thus achieve more muscle growth stimulation.

Isolation exercises can make for good photography so you may come across photos of me like the one pictured here (taken by Jason Mathas the day after the 2003 USA's in Las Vegas) but that doesn't mean I sneak them into my workout when no one is watching. I don't.

If you are striving for maximum steroid free results, stick with basic compound movements and leave isolation exercises for photos!

Believe. Achieve.


Monday, July 6, 2009

The Great Pro Hormone Debate

Of all the raging debates out there about my drug free status, one of the silliest to me involves the issue of pro hormones.

I took pro hormones for a period of time in the early 2000’s. Anyone who actually read along with my training journals on the AST Sports Science web site knows they ranked at the bottom of my supplement list as far as importance.

I added them to my supplement arsenal because I felt if they helped my results by a few percent it would be smart to include them considering I was competing to be number one against the world’s best drug free bodybuilders. At that level of competition I figured a few percent might actually make a difference. I never believed they would have drug like effects and guess what…..they didn’t.

I didn’t touch a pro hormone until after 1999. By that time I had already won multiple state titles, took 5th at the NPC Teen Nationals (behind the likes of some very big names currently competing at the highest level of the IFBB) AND won the 1999 Team Universe Light Hvy Weight division. If my physique was made by pro hormones than how do you explain my success prior to taking any? And as a side note, I wasn’t even taking any for much of the last year (2003) which was my best year ever.

By personal experience I didn’t notice much of a difference when taking pro hormones verses not taking them. By far the most effective supplements for me were VP2 Whey Isolate, GL3 L-Glutamine, Micronized Creatine (Creatine HSC) and at the time Ny-Tro PRO 40. Pro hormones were way down on that list. In fact, I always got a kick out of the people whose first question about supplementation would be which pro hormones to “stack.” I would always tell them to spend most of their supplement budget on protein first, then creatine and glutamine and never replace one of those foundational supplements with a pro hormone. That tells you what I felt about their overall importance in a supplement plan.

In hind sight I wish I would have never taken any because they didn’t make a big difference and it opened the door just a crack for the haters to latch on to something to try to diminish my success and tarnish my drug free status.

If you think for one second that my success was based on pro hormone usage then you are severely uninformed.

Believe. Achieve.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Steroid free bodybuilding 101 - Schedule time off.

Over training is one of the biggest enemies of the steroid free bodybuilder. More is not better when it comes to frequency or duration of workouts. It is very important to maximize recovery by following a smart plan and for my money there is no plan smarter or more effective for a natural training athlete than Max-OT.

One of the Max-OT principles is to take one week off of training every 8-10 weeks. This week off is important for long term gains. It helps you recover both physically and mentally from several weeks straight of intense workouts.

Too many people fear taking any time off because they think they are going to shrink over night. That is not going to happen. Muscle doesn't build that quickly and it doesn't go away that quickly either. If you train consistently week in and week out then a strategic week off should be part of your plan and plays an important role in your long term success.

Remember you are actually recovering and growing on your week off, especially if you focus on great nutrition. Make sure you keep feeding your muscles quality protein consistently each day and you will return to the gym with renewed hunger and greater intensity for the next 8 weeks.

Believe. Achieve.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Footage from my final contest.

Someone posted this video on YouTube of my 2003 NPC Team Universe posing routine and overall winning moment. (My name is spelled wrong but other than that, it is a good clip!)

No doubt this was my personal best and as far as I am concerned there could not have been a more fitting way to end my competitive career.

Believe. Achieve.