Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sundance and other Saturday thoughts.

Co-producer/film maker and star of "I Want to Look Like That Guy" just entered our film into the highly acclaimed Sundance Film Festival. I am not sure how long the screening process takes. It would be incredibly exciting if we made it in. I know they get thousands of entries each year and it would be an elite honor to be accepted. Keep your fingers crossed!

Another thought that came to mind is it was 9 years ago almost to the day when I officially started my job at AST Sports Science HQ in Golden, CO. Hard to believe it is possible that it could have been 9 years ago already.
(Photo: In my office at AST Sports Science)

For those of you who don't know the story, here's the condensed version. I moved form Michigan to Colorado in August of the year 2000 to work as a Technical Specialist for AST Sports Science. I lived in Colorado and worked directly for AST for about 4 years before returning back to Michigan to open my Powerhouse Gym.

The four years I spent in Colorado were some of the best and most challenging years of my life. It was also one of the single greatest educational experiences as well, not only from a bodybuilding/fitness standpoint but also on a personal level. That was the first time living completely on my own far away from any family or friends. I really didn't know anyone when I moved to Colorado. I had only met Paul Delia (CEO AST Sports Science) a couple times and I had met my future co-workers on a weeks visit to Colorado about 6 months prior to moving. It was a giant leap for me but a leap I had to take as I recognized it was an opportunity of a life time and a chance to help make my dreams of becoming an IFBB Pro and one of the worlds greatest drug free bodybuilders a reality.

Paul was incredible during those years as a mentor, boss and friend. I am forever thankful of the opportunity he gave me. Truth is barely a day goes by where I don't think about something he had told me regarding business, bodybuilding or life in general.

Believe. Achieve.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Which Max-OT routine is best?

I often get asked which Max-OT routine is the best, meaning is there a best way to arrange exercises/body parts. Truth is there is no one Max-OT arrangement that is better than another. The way the workout is arranged is not as important as whether or not all the Max-OT principles are being followed such as set/rep volume, exercise selection and workout frequency.

You'll find many examples of Max-OT arrangements on the AST Sports Science web site as well as multiple examples in my Training Journal and you will have success with any of those because the core Max-OT principles are present in all of them.

The one thing I would suggest if you are making your own arrangement is not placing two major body parts together on the same day such as Chest and Back. I also prefer keeping legs to a day by themselves. Reason being, it is very hard to maintain the level of intensity needed for maximum results throughout your workout if you have two major body parts following one another on the same day.

Believe. Achieve.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"I Want to Look Like That Guy" Gets National Press

Our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy" got its first national press in the October 2009 issue of IronMan Magazine.

Check out Lonnie Teper's News and Views section (pg. 212) to see the announcement.

Hopefully this is just the first to come!

Believe. Achieve.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stop the long duration cardio madness!

While I was channel surfing last night I caught a show on E! - "True Hollywood Story - Female Bodybuilders." Like a car wreck, I had to peak on my way by.

Part of the story was following an amateur figure (maybe it was fitness, I can't remember which for sure) competitor who was trying to win her pro card at a national NPC event. What jumped out at me was when she was talking about her training regimen she said she did 3, 45 minute cardio sessions a day! Poor girl had fallen prey to the pundits of long duration cardio like so many guys and girls do when they are preparing for contests.

Long duration cardio, particularly when you are on a reduced calorie diet, is a great way to waste away hard earned muscle. Women have to be even more careful as their propensity to build and maintain muscle is challenged by their gender right out of the gate.

Truth is she would have achieved far greater results with a fraction of the time. This doesn't mean she would have had to work any less hard it just means she would have worked smarter with a more result producing plan. Hard work is great but if channeled in the wrong direction can actually impede progress. I know first hand because I used to do long duration cardio too and never achieved the kind of conditioning I did once I implemented Max-OT style cardio.

Stuart MacDonald's (Pictured above) amazing transformation documented in "I Want to Look Like That Guy" was achieved in part by his consistent short duration, high intensity cardio. There was no long duration cardio for Stu and he was able to go from over 30% body fat to less than 6% bodyf at in a 6 month period. I guarntee that if Stuart would have done hours and hours of cardio he would not have achieved the same dramatic results. He may have lost a similar amount of total weight but his body composition would not have been as great because he would have been sacrificing muscle along the way.

Remember - Short duration, high intensity cardio is the way to go for competitors and anyone looking to really improve body composition. It will have a greater elevation effect on your metabolism and less of any negative effects on the muscle building process.

Believe. Achieve.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Lost" Footage!

One of my favorite features in my latest DVD release "Posing to Win" is the bonus "lost" footage we included.

When going through tapes we stumbled across footage that I didn't think we had. It is a segment of me practicing mandatory poses just 2 weeks before the 2003 NPC USA. It was filmed by my friend and fellow IFBB Pro Derik Farnsworth in San Diego, CA. In fact, we left it uncut so you can actually hear Derik calling out the poses and counting to make sure I held them long enough. I remember we filmed it right after a Max-OT cardio session. I am excited that we are able to share this rare footage because I thought it was gone forever.

Another little fun fact is the photos featured on the front and back cover of this DVD were taken during that same trip to California on Venice Beach.

Some other neat stuff apart from the general posing instructions you'll see on "Posing to Win" is the Q&A session where I address some FAQ's about posing/presentation and overall preparation.

By the way, the offer is still available for the next few copies sold to get an autographed front cover!

Believe. Achieve.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Drug Free Competitor Tip of the Day

Too many drug free competitors, especially first timers, focus too much on weight loss and abandon the real goal of bodybuilding which is to build muscle - hence the name "BodyBUILDING"!

Your goal should be to build and maintain as much muscle as possible while getting as lean as possible. This is different than simply trying to drop weight.

If you are a novice competitor you should not be worrying about the scale during most of your preparation. Your goal should be to look your best by building and maintaining every hard earned ounce of muscle possible while targeting maximum fat burning. When you zero in on that look....whatever you weigh you weigh. Unless you have a few contests under your belt you really have no idea where the needle on the scale will settle at that point.

Stuart MacDonald in "I Want to Look Like That Guy" illustrates this process perfectly. When I started working with him to get him ready for the NPC Natural Michigan he was over 200 lbs and over 30% body fat. I didn't look at him and project the weight class he needed to be in. I did not devise a precontest plan that was focused on weight loss. I devised a plan that focused on building muscle and losing fat to achieve a "bodybuilding lean" physique onstage.

The only time we concerned ourselves with the scale was the last couple weeks before the contest. At that point if you are close to the cut off of a weight class then it makes sense to try and be at the top end of a weight class rather than the bottom. In Stu's case he was getting very close to the light weight cut off so we worked to get him into that class. (We ultimately succeeded but you have to see the documentary to find out just how close we came to missing! Talk about some unplanned drama!)

So the tip of the day is devise your pre-contest plan to build muscle and lose body fat rather then simply focusing on weight loss. If you follow a smart and proven plan you will not have to worry about losing precious muscle and can shift your emphasis to maximum fat burning. If you commit many of the common mistakes that a lot of natural bodybuilders do and focus simply on losing weight to make a weight class then there is no doubt you'll be setting yourself up to sacrifice muscle and not be all that you could come the day of the show.

Believe. Achieve.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Take advantage of every day.

I was recently asked what were the biggest strategies that allowed for my dramatic increase in placing from 2002 to 2003? I would not say it was any different strategy but rather an improvement of my mindset and greater execution of the plan for a longer period of time. Let me explain.....

In February of 2002 around the Arnold Classic time there was talk about the NPC making a rule change that would effect former class champions of the NPC Team Universe. I don't even remember all the details at this point but the summary was that the same people were finishing at the top of their respective weight classes year after year and were not going to be allowed to compete for the weight class but would be allowed to compete for the overall. That being the case myself along with some of the other past champions decided to forgo the Team Universe that year and enter the NPC USA instead. Long story short, that is why I didn't participate in the 2002 Team Universe. I ended up placing 15 in the light heavy weight division of the NPC USA. (As a side note, as the show got closer in 2002 the NPC changed their minds and never followed through with that rule change for the Team Universe. By the time I found out my mind was already fixated on doing only the USA that year so I opted not to change my plans.)

I was disappointed with my 15th place finish at the USA but I also understood this was another level up from the Team Universe. The NPC USA is not drug tested and the NPC Team Universe is. Now some people will roll their eyes and say that the drug testing is a farce at the Team Universe and I beg to differ. In my three victories at the Team Universe I was polygraphed and urinalysis tested on each as were the other champions. Could someone try and beat that test? Of course they could just like they could try and beat a drug test for any event. Are there guys and girls who are in the Team Universe that are taking drugs? Probably so because there will always be some people who will cheat and try and beat the system no matter what but it is not fair to make a blanket statement that it is a farce and assume everyone is dishonest. The drug tests at the Team Universe are very real but this is a whole other back to my story.

Top to bottom in each weight class there is no mistaking that the USA is a much harder contest than the Team Universe. Being on that stage against the best and not placing well really inspired me to prove to the world and to myself that I could compete at that level while being completely drug free. I never once used the excuse that my poor placing was because I was not taking drugs and everyone else was. That was not my style. I enetered the USA full well knowing what I was up against so I took my placing like a man and went back to the drawing board as I always did after a contest. I took a day or two to reflect on the experience and the moment I arrived back at AST HQ in Golden, CO I was on a mission to make the top 5 at the 2003 USA and to win the overall at the Team Universe.

Those were two lofty goals and I owned them both from day one. I wrote both proclamations on note cards and placed them in strategic spots so I had to read them multiple times a day...."I am a top 5 USA finisher"...."I am the Overall Team Universe Champion"... Those positive affirmations would drive and direct that entire year for me.

I took advantage of each day of that year unlike any other year prior. I always worked hard for every contest throughout the years but this year was special for me. In 2003 I asked more of myself daily and I delivered.

I followed the same formula of Max-OT training, Max-OT cardio, the same nutritional principles that I did the year before so there was nothing really different in strategy. Like I said, I just did a better job of performing at a higher level for a longer period of time. It was my mantra to take advantage of every day and make decisions on a daily if not hourly basis that would propel me closer to those two goals written with blue sharpie on white note cards that stared me in the face almost every where I looked.

As most of you know I made those two affirmations a reality. I placed 4th at the 2003 USA and I won the overall and IFBB Pro Card at the 2003 Team Universe.

An interesting tid bit about my positive affirmation note cards....My mother and my aunt would come to visit me over Mother's Day each year that I lived in Colorado. My mom later admitted to me that seeing those note cards around my apartment (during her stay in 2003) with those bold proclamations actually made her nervous to look at. She was worried I would take it very hard if I fell short of those goals. Fortunately, we'll never have to know because 2003 was my best year by a mile and a very happy ending to my competitive career.

Don't underestimate the power of writing down positive affirmations. It is one thing to think you would like to achieve "this" or "that" and another to take complete ownership of those goals by actually writing them down as if they are a statement of fact.

Believe. Achieve.

Friday, August 14, 2009

NEW DVD - "Posing to Win"

I am happy to announce that my new DVD "Posing to Win" is now available!

Posing to Win gives you a unique inside look at an actual teaching session between amateur bodybuilder Stuart MacDonald and me as he prepares for the NPC Natural Michigan Championship.

You'll listen in as I share my knowledge gained over a 12 year competitive career and explain techniques I used to become one of the greatest drug free bodybuilders in the world.

The DVD is packed with information including a Q&A section where I address many frequently asked questions about posing and presentation plus you get special bonus commentary as you watch actual contest footage of Stuart onstage executing what he learned.

Posing and overall presentation can be the difference between first and second place so don't leave this important aspect of competing to chance. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned competitor Posing to Win will give you the fundamentals of posing and presentation needed for the winning edge.

*Never before seen footage of me practicing posing just weeks before my 2003 overall victory at the NPC Team Universe where I earned my IFBB Pro Card.

*View national judges score sheet from my unanimous 2003 NPC Team Universe Class victory.

The first 50 copies sold will receive an autographed front cover!

Believe. Achieve.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Drug Free Competitor Tips of the Day

When getting ready for a contest and focusing on maximum fat burning don't forget to keep a strong muscle building component to your plan. Too many drug free bodybuilders fail to keep some important things in place when dieting for a show and it causes them to lose too much hard earned muscle.

1. Continue to train heavy with the Max-OT principles. Do not switch to high rep training in an attempt to "bring out the separation." Heavy weights will continue to create a stimulus for muscle growth.

2. Keep cardio short and intense - Max-OT style. 16-20 minutes maximum at high intensity. Do not do long duration cardio and don't do any cardio on an empty stomach. That is a great recipe for muscle wasting.

3. Maintain smart nutrient timing and nutrient ratios. This means do not simply cut out carbs. You need carbohydrates, you just need to select and time them intelligently.

Keeping these three basic points in mind will help set you up to build muscle throughout your pre-contest preparation.

Believe. Achieve.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Drug Free Muscle Building Tip of the Day.

It is true when using the Max-OT principles you are striving for a continual progression of overload. That means once you complete 6 "good" reps with any given movement it is time to increase your weights by the smallest increment available. The key phrase in that last sentence is "good reps."

What do I mean by 6 good reps? That means you are in control of the weight for all 6 reps and require no assistance from a spotter to complete the set. If you are sloppy or really struggle to get 6 reps it is not a good idea to move up in weight just yet.

If you get too ahead of yourself with weight selection you will begin to sacrifice too much form and control. This will lead to more potential for injury and a greater likelihood of plateauing with your weights.

When you are training with the Max-OT principles you want to use the best balance of loose form and maximal weight, being careful not to expense one for the other. Remember that loose form doesn't mean sloppy or out of control it simply means allowing your body to move naturally through the exercise rather than being too strict or rigid. You can get a great visual example of exactly what I mean by loose form while under control in my training DVDs.

Believe. Achieve.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More great reviews are in! recently featured our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy" on their site. This is what they had to say about our film:

"Eye-Opening, Entertaining and Inspiring!"

"The documentary I Want To Look Like That Guy is a very interesting look inside what it takes to get truly "bodybuilding lean". Stuart MacDonald is an average guy who is a bit overweight and decides to take on this challenge to get in top shape with the help of IFBB Pro bodybuilder Jeff Willet. It follows Stuart as he gets his body fat levels tested throughout many weeks of his transformation. One of the great aspects of the documentary is how it really shows the viewer a sense of just how strict the diet and training is to make such a drastic change in body composition. Stuart goes through some difficult times trying to stay on such a rigid regimen and its interesting to see how he deals with the emotions of a reduced calorie diet along with intense weight training and cardio work. The overall transformation Stuart makes is truly remarkable and it shows the viewer that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible."

Stuart MacDonald and I were also recently interviewed for a feature article to appear on which should be available soon.

Believe. Achieve.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cardio - Keep it short and intense for maximum fat loss.

To achieve the greatest fat loss results and minimize any potential negative muscle building effects from cardio remember to keep it short and intense.

Max-OT style cardio is the way to go. I keep the duration at 16 minutes of high intensity, making sure I am huffing and puffing throughout each session. You have to remain out of your comfort zone throughout each session in order to get the full benefits. If you treat cardio like a Sunday stroll then you can forget about being shredded.

Establishing a distance goal will help make sure your intensity is where it needs to be. Let's say you travel 4.2 miles in 16 minutes on a recumbent bike then the next session you need to try and beat 4.2 miles with all settings being the same. Always striving to better your distance will help drive you during each session and make sure your intensity is where it needs to be for the ultimate metabolic elevation.

Long duration cardio is much less effective at overall metabolic elevation and will have much more of a negative impact on the muscle building process. Trust me, I know from experience.

I used to follow the same poor advice delivered by most bodybuilding gurus. I did long duration cardio and I did it on an empty stomach too! Guess what, I never came close to achieving the hardness that I wanted come the day of the show. My level of conditioning and muscularity improved dramatically when I introduced Max-OT style cardio. I achieved the condition of my life (condition that enabled me to place 4th at the USA and win the overall at the Team Universe - 100% drug free) and never went over 20 minutes on any session of cardio and never ever did any of it on an empty stomach.

Believe. Achieve.