Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sample 5-day Workout Schedule

I thought some of you might find it helpful to view a sample 5-day Max-OT workout schedule. There is nothing special about this arrangement or any other Max-OT arrangement for that matter. You can group the body parts and the order of days in any number of ways and still be effective.

Here are some important principles to keep in mind when constructing your schedule:
  • Train each body part once per week.
  • 4-6 reps for major body parts.
  • 6-8 total sets for bigger muscle groups.
  • 4-5 total sets for smaller muscle groups.
  • Select mostly free weight compound exercises.
  • Don't group large body parts together like chest and back or legs and chest.

MONDAY (Back & Traps)
Deadlifts....2 sets 4-6 reps (After warm-up)
Weighted Pull-ups.... 3 sets 4-6 reps (After acclimation set)
Bent-over Rows.... 2 sets 4-6 reps (After Weight Acclimation)
Barbell Shrugs.... 2 sets 4-6 reps (After Weight Acclimation)

Flat Barbell Bench Press.... 2 sets 4-6 reps (After warm-up)
Incline Barbell Bench Press.... 2 sets 4-6 reps
Weighted Dips.... 2 sets 4-6 reps

WEDNESDAY (Legs & Calves)
Calf Raises On Leg Press.... 3 sets 6-8 reps
Seated Calf Raises.... 2 sets 6-8 reps

Squats.... 5 sets 4-6 reps (After warm-up)
Stiff Leg Deadlifts.... 2 sets 4-6 reps (After weight acclimation)

THURSDAY (Biceps, Triceps & Forearms)
Barbell Curls….3 sets 4-6 reps
Standing Dumbbell Curls….2 sets 4-6 reps

Lying Triceps Extensions….3 sets 4-6 reps
Cable Push-downs….2 sets 4-6 reps

Barbell Wrist Curls.... 3 sets 6-8 reps

FRIDAY (Abs & Shoulders)
Cable Crunches.... 3 sets 8-10 reps (After weight acclimation)
Weighted Leg Raises.... 2 sets 8-10 reps

Military Barbell Press (To the front).... 3 sets 4-6 reps (After warm-up)
Side Lateral Dumbbell Raises.... 2 sets 4-6 reps
Seated Rear Lateral Dumbbell Raises.... 2 sets 4-6 reps

Believe. Achieve.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Don't Over-complicate the Process

The muscle building process is actually pretty simple. When I say that, I am not talking about the effort required to execute the process, just the basic formula which can be summed up as stimulus and response. Muscle is best stimulated to grow by being placed under heavy mechanical tension (overload) and responds to that stimulus by building bigger stronger muscles through proper recovery.

It’s almost like some people feel a need to make it harder than that. So they over-examine things, dissect the minor details and look for the hidden strategies. In the process of scouring particulars they miss the bigger picture. Like Paul Delia once told me, “They are missing the dollars to pick up the pennies.” That has been a favorite saying of mine ever since.

For instance, some people ask me questions about weight selection. They say they are confused and don’t know exactly when to increase weight or what percent to increase it by. Rather than making it difficult, simply use the 4-6 rep range as your guide. If you can get 6 reps on your own then increase weight by the smallest increment you can. It doesn’t have to be a perfect science as long as you progressively work to use more weights while staying in the 4-6 rep range with good control and execution.

If you over analyze the process you are wasting energy and causing yourself unnecessary confusion. The principles are pretty clear cut and spelled out simply throughout the Max-OT course. And above it all, the underlying key to your success is the consistent hard work you do while executing those basic principles.

You can basically break the muscle building process down to a few major points:

*Train heavy with the Max-OT principles.
*Follow a good nutrition schedule daily.
*Practice smart post workout nutrient/supplement selection and timing.
*Train with Intensity.
*Execute the program consistently.

Don’t over complicate the process rather channel your efforts towards executing the plan to the best of your ability each and every day.

Believe. Achieve.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Abdominal Training Tips

There is a big misconception when it comes to abdominal training. You often hear that in order to trim your waist line you need to do countless high rep sets of crunches and you need to train your abs frequently throughout the week. This is simply not true. You can’t spot reduce fat around your waist no matter how many reps you do so forget about it.

To have great abs you need two things. One is good abdominal muscular development and the second is a low level of body fat so the musculature is visible. Neither of these ingredients is accomplished with frequent high rep ab training.

For increasing abdominal muscular development you need to think of ab training like you do any other muscle group. If you want to increase development, you need to train the area with resistance. I recommend overloading the abs in an 8-10 rep range. A higher rep range is used compared to the normal Max-OT 4-6 reps so you can effectively overload the abs while maintaining good form and feel during every rep and maintaining tension on the abs. I'd say my favorite exercies for overloading the abs is cable crunches.

As for frequency, I think direct ab training once per week is plenty. Remember, abs get a lot of work all week long stabilizing your body during free weight compound movements so one time a week with direct overload should be all you need.

After increasing abdominal muscular development by executing intelligent Max-OT training you need to focus on the other ingredient for great abs which is shedding body fat and that is accomplished through attention to diet and intense Max-OT style cardio.

If you are smart and consistent with your diet and cardio, you’ll melt away the fat and the abdominal muscles you’ve worked hard to develop will be visible. The end result will be an awesome set of rock hard abs.

Believe. Achieve.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Examining Deadlifts

Not all exercises are created equal. Some are far better at stimulating muscular development than others. It is a wise choice to structure your training schedule around the most effective exercises in order to maximize your time and efforts in the gym.

As a rule, free weight compound exercises that involve movement through more than one joint and the recruitment of multiple muscle groups are most effective. Compound exercises require you to balance the weight as it travels through a natural and full range of motion, while effectively achieving maximum overload. These are all very important characteristics to look for in the exercises you choose. That is, of course, if you want to achieve the greatest results.

When you are talking about compound exercises that involve multiple muscle groups and movement through multiple joints, deadlifts is one of the best. Along with squats, it is hard to think of another exercise that has as much total body involvement.

The nature of this exercise makes it extremely effective for stimulating muscular strength and development from head to toe. It also makes it possible to generate a lot of power and handle some pretty serious weights.

As they say, “with great power comes great responsibility.” That is very true when it comes to executing deadlifts. To get the most out of the movement and to protect yourself from injury it is important to fully understand the mechanics of this exercise and develop great execution techniques before building up to massive weights. Remember – better execution will lead to greater results.

When I perform deadlifts I like to envision my body working as one powerful unit to raise the weight off the ground as my body moves from a squat into a standing position. I like to feel the power I can generate each rep by driving through with my legs and keeping my abs and lower back (core) tight as I stand up. This helps remind me to use my whole body to move the weight and not place all the stress on my lower back.

To begin I stand with my feet a little less than shoulder width apart and my shins very close to the bar, approximately 1 or 2 inches away. I squat down and grip the bar with an overhand grip and my hands positioned a little wider than my legs. I like to use wrist wraps to help my grip strength.

To start the movement I keep my head looking up to help maintain a natural arch in my back and my abs and lower back remain tight. I generate the initial part of the move by keeping my butt low and driving through with my legs and hips as I lift the weight off the ground. I keep the bar close to my body, almost as if I was dragging it up my legs until I get to a standing position.

Once I am standing straight I don’t hyper extend my back by leaning backwards, I stop and prepare mentally for the second part of the movement.

I follow the same procedure in reverse for returning the bar to the starting position. I keep my head up and back arched with the bar remaining close to my body. As I lower the weight I squat down using my legs to help me lower the weight. Under complete muscular control I sit the weight back on the ground.

Once the weight is stationary on the ground I make sure my grip is set and my base is sturdy with my feet firmly planted. I remind myself to keep my butt down and my head up. When I am mentally and physically prepared, I do another rep.

I find it helpful to “reset’ myself after every rep rather than trying to do one continual set with no rest. Resetting myself after each rep keeps my form and focus strong and helps me execute the exercise correctly. This is especially important during a full body compound exercise like deadlifts.

Deadlifts have always been a challenging exercise for me and for the longest time I never felt very comfortable with the form and execution. I didn’t even include deadlifts the first several years I started bodybuilding because I didn’t realize the importance of the exercise or its impact on overall development, especially for the back and traps. Once I understood the important role deadlifts could play I made a commitment to learning and executing them better. As my execution improved, my confidence grew and so did my weights. Consequently making deadlifts a bigger part of my training really improved my back development and it was especially noticeable the last couple years of my career.

I definitely think it is worth your while to incorporate deadlifts into some of your Max-OT routines. Take the time to learn and get comfortable with the mechanics of the exercise and then work to increase your weights from there.

I often say "basics are best" and it doesn’t get much more basic than loading a bar up with weights and picking it off the ground.

Believe. Achieve.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Off Season" Cardio

There’s not a doubt in my mind that Max-OT style cardio (short duration/high intensity) is the most effective way to approach cardiovascular exercise based on research and my own personal experience. Max-OT cardio played a very big role in achieving the best condition of my life when I won my IFBB pro card at the Team Universe.

One fairly common question I get is about cardio in the "off season." First I'd like to say I don't really like the term "off season" as there really is no such thing, especially for a drug free bodybuilder. I prefer to look at the training year in phases as they relate to a contest date. You have a maximum muscle building phase where you are gearing things towards gaining fat free mass as your primary goal and as you enter the pre-contest time frame (for me that's about 6 months prior to a show) you gradually shift your plan to emphasize maximum fat burning. Or as I like to say you shift the pendulum from maximum muscle building to maximum fat burning.

(The photo to the right illustrates my "off season" condition 15 weeks out from a contest. I did more cardio during that maximum muscle building phase then ever before and really emphasized staying in good condition all year. The additional cardio didn't hurt my muscle building phase as I was a very solid 227 lbs.)

Obviously the primary goal in a maximum muscle building phase is exactly as the name implies - build maximum muscle, so why do cardio you may ask? One big reason is during your quest to pack on mass you also want to keep body fat levels in check and that’s where Max-OT cardio fits into the equation. You don't want to gain weight just for the sake of gaining weight if a large percentage of the gain is from fat and not muscle. The more fat you gain, the more fat you will have to lose to be shredded on stage.

I hear some people say they steer clear of cardio in the off season because they don’t want to disrupt the muscle building process in any way but with Max-OT cardio that doesn’t need to be a concern. The short duration and intense nature of Max-OT cardio has very little if any negative impact on the muscle building process. In fact, after Max-OT cardio you create a period of potential increased nutrient uptake similar to after intense weight training so it can be anabolic in that sense.

Cardio should remain a part of your schedule all year and is a training variable you adjust depending on your specific emphasis at any point and time. If you are in a maximum muscle building phase I recommend 2-3 sessions per week and you increase the number of sessions from there as you start to shift your emphasis towards maximum fat burning.

Aside from keeping body fat levels in check, Max-OT cardio also provides important cardiovascular health and endurance benefits and that’s another reason I feel Max-OT cardio should remain a part of your plan all year.

The maximum muscle building phase is not an excuse to get fat so don't forget to keep a spot open for Max-OT cardio in your "off season" training plan.

Believe. Achieve.


Great Podcast Interview

I was recently the special guest on BEYOND DIET Podcast and had a very interesting interview that is now available.

We touched on a variety of topics including Max-OT principles and my basic nutrition philosophy. We also got into some personal stuff as I discuss my bodybuilding origins, the decision to remain drug free and I share some special advice for those who want to achieve an outstanding drug free physique.

Check it out for lots of great information and stay tuned for the entire broadcast to hear about an exclusive offer just for BEYOND DIET listeners!

Believe. Achieve.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Progressive Overload, Progressive Gains

You’ve heard me say many times that progressive overload with the Max-OT principles is the key to continual muscle gains but how much weight should you add and when should you add it? There’s no magical formula but there are a few guidelines you can follow to keep each workout heading in a maximum muscle building direction.

I’ve found it helpful to establish individual daily goals of bettering my numbers each workout. I try to increase the weight or get more reps (in the 4-6 rep range) with the weight I left off with the previous week. These individual workout goals give me concrete objectives to accomplish and help me assess the success of each workout.

A fairly common question I get is when to increase weights. A simple rule of thumb is when you can get six reps on your own with good form and execution it is time to increase. If you let the rep range be your guide, you’ll be in good shape. Don’t get ahead of yourself and add weight if you can’t complete 6 reps on your own.

If you are doing two or three sets of an exercise you don’t have to get six reps on all sets before you increase. When you get six reps on the first set go ahead and increase for the remaining sets. Remember, more overload equals greater muscle growth stimulation so ideally you should be at the lower end of the rep range on your latter sets.

When you increase weight I recommend moving up with the smallest increments possible. Small increases add up over time and are a more favorable approach for encouraging progressive strength gains.

You don’t have to make monumental changes each workout to ensure continual progress. Modest daily goals of bettering your numbers will keep you moving steadily forward.

Believe. Achieve.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Forced Reps – To do, or not to do?

You’re pounding out an intense set of bench presses and you’re just about at your limit. You want to pack on as much mass as possible and nothing is going to stand in your way. You’re not about to stop the set so you grunt to your partner, “two more” because you know those extra two forced reps with help are what separates the men from the boys and will ignite crazy new muscle growth, right? Wrong!

Upon first glance forced reps may seem like a good idea. I mean forced reps allow you to get more reps with more weight….or do they?

If you really think about what a forced rep is, you’ll realize it is a rep with less total overload. There is less overload because your partner is assisting with the lift thus making the load lighter. For all intents and purposes finishing your set with one or two forced reps is like ending with lighter weight. This is not ideal because less overload equals less muscle growth stimulation.

Also, forced reps prematurely fatigue your muscles because you end up doing one or two reps beyond positive failure (which is the point at where you can’t complete any more reps on your own) with a lighter weight. Muscle fatigue decreases the amount of overload or weight you can use on your remaining sets and is another reason forced reps should be avoided.

Here’s another thing to consider. If you are getting help on the last rep, it makes it harder to know when to increase weights because you are not truly getting those reps on your own. If you are getting 6 reps with no help at all you know it is time to increase weight, no questions asked. Stopping at positive failure will give you a much more accurate gauge of strength increases.

I trained with forced reps for many years before finding Max-OT. After I adopted the Max-OT principles I admit it was a hard habit to break. Stopping at positive failure was something I had to learn and a skill it took me a few years to refine.

My best advice on this subject is get in the habit of stopping at positive failure with at most taking a little help to complete the final rep of a set and no more.

Believe. Achieve.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Drug Free Muscle Building Tip - Choose your plan wisely!

So, have you looked at the latest and greatest routine from your favorite muscle building magazine lately? Maybe one guaranteed to put and extra inch on your biceps in record time?

You need to be careful before you embark on any of these “advanced” workouts and consider the fact that the people advising these routines may not be the best sources of information for you to follow.

If you are a natural bodybuilder and are training without the use of performance enhancing drugs you must train smart and for the most part that means ignoring the training advice in the popular magazines. Reader beware!

Often times the workouts prescribed by the popular press are less than ideal from a muscle building standpoint for the drug free bodybuilder. The workouts typically consist of too many sets, isolation exercises, super sets or other “advanced” principles which will catapult you straight into muscle fatigue and keep you spinning your wheels in the land of stagnant results.

Your best bet is to make sure you are learning from sources that are relevant to drug free bodybuilding. That means modeling your approach after proven methods that top natural bodybuilders have used to achieve great success.

When I first started bodybuilding some 20 years ago I made the same mistakes that most people do. I learned largely from the popular magazines until I found AST Sports Science and Max-OT. The good news for you is you don’t have to waste your time sifting through all the B.S. to try and find a sound program that will truly maximize drug free results. The answer is already right in front of you.

Max-OT is the proven method that I've used for more than 10 years and has been critical to my success. I've advised countless people to use Max-OT and all with great results. You can see an awesome visual example of what these principles (training, cardio and nutrition) can do in the documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy."

Unfortunately drug use is a sad reality of the sport especially at the top levels. I am not writing this to preach but rather to shed some light on the situation and remind you to be aware and make sure the advice you are following is relevant to drug free training.

Believe. Achieve.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Fat 2 Fit Radio Interview

A few weeks ago, Stuart MacDonald and I sat down to talk with Fat 2 Fit Radio about our Documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy." That interview is now available.

Here's what Fat 2 Fit has to say:

In this episode, we are going to be talking about a documentary called I Want to Look Like That Guy. This documentary was brought to our attention in the Fat 2 Fit Support group from one of our long term listeners and it looked very interesting. Jeff purchased it, and found it very compelling.
The documentary is about a basically average, middle age guy who is a little overweight just like the average person these days, and he wanted to find out what he would have to do to look like that guy in all of those ads in the different fitness magazines. All of those ads seem to be selling a product or program that promises that you can look just like the fitness model in those ads quickly and with little effort. So Stuart MacDonald, the filmmaker, decided that he would do whatever it takes to get that exact look of those guys. He soon discovered that all of those guys are bodybuilders and live that lifestyle to get that look for the magazines. He then hooks up with a professional drug free bodybuilder and gym owner, Jeff Willet, in his town and says, “I want to look just like those guys in the ads.”

Hope you enjoy the interview.

Believe. Achieve.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Form: Work with your natural biomechanics

I often get asked about proper exercise form and commonly the exercises in question are curling movements. Here's my take.

Contrary to popular belief, you should not remain super strict with your motion when doing barbell or dumbbell curls. You should allow your body to move naturally thereby working with your biomechanics rather than fighting them. Working with some natural movement you'll enable you to handle more weight and handle it safer by not adding undue stress to your joints.

Don't confuse biomechanically optimized or "loose" form with sloppy form. It is quite the opposite. You are still controlling the weight throughout the movement rather than jerking or throwing it.

It is difficult to write about form and much easier to understand if you see it. Biomechanically optimized form is illustrated in my series of training DVD's along with a detailed explanation of all the important Max-OT principles.

Believe. Achieve.