Sunday, May 30, 2010

Short Duration/High Intensity Cardio is Key

Short duration (16-20 minutes), high intensity cardio is a key element in the fat burning equation. A.K.A. Max-OT cardio.

Max-OT style cardio will have a bigger elevating effect on your metabolism and keep it elevated longer after exercise compared to long duration moderate intensity cardio. Plus Max-OT style cardio has less of any negative impact on the muscle building process.

Why 16 Minutes?

There is noting magic about the number 16. Your sessions could fall anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes. We settled on 16 because that seems to be a good time frame where you can keep maximum intensity and focus. The closer you get to 20 minutes the harder it is to maintain that high level of output. That's not to say 15 or 17 minutes wouldn't accomplish the task so don't over-analyze that number. The idea is to keep it between 15 and 20 and work your tail off every single minute!

How do I gauge intensity?

The best way I can describe it is you need to be "huffing and puffing" throughout the session and you need to be working out out of your comfort zone.

One tangible way to gauge this is to set distance goals and try to beat it. For example, if you travel 4.2 miles in 16 minutes on a recumbent bike then your next session you try to beat 4.2 miles with all settings being equal. Working to exceed your distance every time will quickly ensure you are working at the level necessary for maximum results.

How Often?

If fat loss is a primary goal then I'd say you should be doing Max-OT style cardio 5-6 days a week.

If you are in a maximum muscle building phase and looking to maintain condition then I think 2-3 days a week is good.

What makes you so sure?

I was just like all of you and early in my career I did the customary long duration/moderate intensity cardio because that is what the magazines said to do. I achieved good results doing more traditional style cardio, in fact, I won many contests doing cardio that way. However, I always had a hard time getting that razor sharp condition until I implemented Max-OT style cardio. Results went from good to GREAT!

Max-OT style cardio was one of the biggest factors in the outstanding condition I achieved in 2003. It was without a doubt the greatest condition of my career and that is why I am so confident in Max-OT style cardio.

Believe. Achieve.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Posing Tip - Start from the ground up!

I was doing a posing coaching session yesterday with a first time competitor preparing for a contest coming up in August. We went over all the basic relaxed poses and the mandatory poses in great detail. It's amazing how much you can enhance your physique by holding the poses correctly.

One thing all you competitors should keep in mind as you work on your poses is to start each pose from the ground up. Many first time competitors are so focused on their upper bodies they forget about their legs and leave them relaxed and in poor positions. If you get in the habit of starting from the ground up you won't forget and your poses will all be complete from head to toe!

I go over this along with lots of great posing and presentation tips in my DVD "Posing to Win". I also offer 1/2 hour posing coaching sessions at my gym in Michigan for those interested in one on one assistance.

After you spend all those months dieting you should make sure you are presenting your physique to the best of your abilities when you hit the stage. Posing and overall presentation can be the difference between first and second place so don’t leave this important aspect of competition to chance.

Believe. Achieve.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Limiting Mindset

It always amazes me how so many people box themselves into mediocrity by having a limited mindset on what they believe is possible. If you believe something is not possible then you are correct, it is not possible. However, if you believe you can do it that opens up the possibility that you CAN achieve it. If you don't believe you can forget about achieving it and that is the origin of my slogan "Believe. Achieve."

If I would have listened to all of the people who told me it was not possible to build an IFBB pro caliber physique without using drugs I would have been defeated long before I set foot on any stage. I believed I could do it and that was my first step to accomplishing such a lofty and "unbelievable" achievement. I could have had the same genetic potential but had a totally different career if my mindset would have been limited.

It was more than 10 years ago when I decided the NPC Team Universe was going to be my path towards an IFBB pro card. In order to reach that goal I knew I would have to compete with the likes of the greatest drug free bodybuilders of all time. Two of whom I really admired were Skip La Cour and Chris Faildo. They were both competing in the Team Universe and both dominating their weight classes. They inspired me because I knew if they could develop those high caliber physiques drug free than I could do it too.

Skip and Chris were better than me at the time and so were many of the other guys at that level. That was very evident in 1997 when I first competed in the Team Universe and took 9th in my class. Same in 1998 when I took 9th again. Rather than looking at the top guys like Skip and Chris and saying, "they are better than me so they must be cheating" I didn't make any excuses and I didn't have a limiting mindset. Instead I sought out Skip so I could learn from someone who was better than I was.

Fast forward to 2003 and there I was in the overall against both Skip and Chris which was a big honor for me. These were two guys I had looked up to and was inspired by and now I was toe to toe with them battling for an IFBB pro card. What a rush!

So you can see the point perfectly illustrated in my own life story. If I would have taken on a limiting mindset of what I believed to be possible I would never have reached the brass ring. I chose to be inspired and educated by those who were more accomplished then me and I worked my tail off to maximize my own potential.

We all have the same choice. Which mindset do you choose?

Believe. Achieve.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Training Tip - How much weight do I increase?

I recently talked about when to increase weight and I said when you can get 6 reps on your own with good execution it is time to bump up the weight. How much do I increase you may ask?

When moving up in weight, keep this tip in mind. You always want to increase weight by the smallest increment possible. If you are using a barbell that typically means 2.5 lbs per side. If we are talking a cable machine or dumbbells then use the smallest increase available.

Your body will be able to accommodate these small increases better than bigger jumps in weight and thus it will help your strength progressions keep moving forward without hitting a plateau.

Believe. Achieve.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

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Believe. Achieve.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"That Guy" Feedback.

A while back I mentioned that our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy" had made it through the first round of cuts for the L.A. Film Festival. We were recently informed that we did not make the final cut and will not be included in the festival, however, we did receive some nice comments from the screening committee and a reminder that this is merely an opinion and not a reflection on the overall quality and content of the film.

It would have been a nice feather in our cap to make it into the film festival but more important than that accolade is the continual great feedback I receive from those who have seen the film and come away inspired and motivated.

I think what I love most about the documentary is the completely honest light that it sheds upon the current state of the health and fitness industry and it hammers home what I feel is a very important message...."if you want to have an extreme physique you have to live an extreme lifestyle."

There continues to be gobs of misleading information spoon fed to the masses about fitness on a daily basis. Whether it is another celebrity peddling their latest fitness cook book and workout guide or some medical professional telling women they need a minimum of 1 hour of exercise a day to receive any benefits - the list of falsehoods goes on and on and I don't see it stopping any time soon.

I like to think this documentary is a beacon of truth in the otherwise murky waters of fitness information. This film doesn't try to paint some easy or magic answer of how to get fit quick but rather shows you what is possible if you execute a smart plan and are willing to "walk through the fire" to get to your goal. For that I am very proud of the story we tell.

Believe. Achieve.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nutrition Tip - To cheat or not to cheat?

I am not a fan of the term "cheat meal". For me that creates a negative connotation when in reality there is nothing wrong or negative about factoring in some scheduled meals that are off your eating plan. This does, however, come with some factors to consider.

The more focused you are on changing your body, the more you have to account for your caloric intake and the more you need to make the calories you are consuming "work" for you. That being said, for the majority of people who just want to be healthier and lose some fat it is unrealistic and not necessary to never have any of the foods you enjoy as long as you do it within reason and as long as the majority of the time you are eating foods that are on your plan.

The important thing is to look at the trend of your eating habits over a period of time and you want the trend to by heavily slanted towards good days of execution verses bad. In the documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy" I give Stuart the example that if 90% of the time you ate crap food and 10% of the time you ate healthy it would not help you out very much. Well the same is true going the other way. If you eat healthy 90% of the time then 10% eating off the schedule is not going to "derail the train" so to speak.

The rules change if you are trying to be ultra lean. If that is your goal then I say you want to make all your calories work for you every day of the week and you don't want to waste any meals on calories that are not going to perform the functions you are trying to achieve. Here's how I approached it. During the maximum muscle building phase of the year I would have one day a week to eat what ever I wanted, without going totally crazy. Once I was within 6 months of a contest I would cut out any non-bodybuilding foods and make sure all my calories were working for me 7 days a week.

So the moral of this story is in most cases it is fine and recommended to schedule some meals for enjoyment (not a license to gorge!) just make sure the overall trend of your eating pattern is heavily slanted towards following your nutrition plan.

If you approach it intelligently there is nothing that is "cheating" about it.

Believe. Achieve.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Training Tip - When to Increase Weight

If you are familiar with Max-OT you know the rep range we shoot for is 4-6 reps. When you can get 6 reps on your own with good execution it is time to bump up the weight. That being said you don't need to get 6 reps on every set of an exercise before you increase the weight. That's one commonly misunderstood principle. Let's examine.

We'll assume you are doing 3 working sets of an exercise. If you hit 6 reps on the first set you need to bump up the weight for sets 2 and 3. You should not be getting 6 reps every set. If you are, your intensity needs to be examined.

The reality is you should be closer to 4 reps on the last set of any exercise. It is even OK to get only 3 reps on the final set.

Don't get into the mind set that you should always be getting 6 reps. It will limit your weight progression, however this does come with one warning.....Don't sacrifice weight increases for good exercise exectution. You always want to find the best balance of both.

Believe. Achieve.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Favorite Sources for Protein Consumption

Throughout my career I consumed most of my daily protein through supplementation and I continue this practice today. (My favorite protein supplement choices are VP2, Muscle XGF and VyoPro Protein Bars).

I've always preferred getting most of my protein through supplement sources for 3 main reasons: quality, convenience and ease of measuring nutrient totals.

This is not to say that one can't get more daily protein through food sources this is simply what has always made the most sense and worked best for me. The main thing is that your nutrient total goals are met at the end of the day regardless of the sources you choose.

Before you stop and say the only reason I do or say this is because I'm sponsored by AST Sports Science, I say "know your facts before you accuse me of simply being a marketing tool for AST." Long before I became sponsored by AST Sports Science in 1999 I paid for all my supplements out of my own pocket for many years and I still followed the same type of pattern of getting most of my daily protein through supplementation. I always have practiced exactly what I preach and have never appreciated the insinuation that I lie about what I do to sell products.

I was recently asked if I thought the inclusion of so many meals through supplementation was a healthy way to go about it and I absolutely think it is as long as you add extra fiber in your diet with the inclusion of lots of green crunchy vegetables.

Believe. Achieve.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sample 3-Day Max-OT Arrangement

I was asked in response to the sample 5-day Max-OT routine if I could list a 3 day variation.

The principles remain the same the only difference each workout will be longer because you are forced to work more body parts each workout. For that reason I prefer to train over a 5 day period to keep the workouts shorter but if your schedule doesn't allow you to workout 5 days you can still achieve results with 3 days a week.

Day 1 – Chest, Shoulders & Triceps

Flat Bench Press….3 sets 4-6 reps
Incline Bench Press….3 sets 4-6 reps
Dumbbell Presses….3 sets 4-6 reps
Side Lateral Raises….2 sets 4-6 reps
Tricep Cable Pushdowns….2 sets 4-6 reps
Dumbbell Overhead Extensions….2 sets 4-6 reps

Day 2 – Back, Biceps & Abs

Deadlifts….3 sets 4-6 reps
Lat Pulldowns….3 sets 4-6 reps
Bicep Barbell Curls….2 sets 4-6 reps
Dumbbell Curls….2 sets 4-6 reps
Ab Rope Crunches….3 sets 8-12 reps
Swiss Ball Crunches….2 sets 8-12 reps

Day 3 – Legs & Calves

Squats….3 sets 4-6 reps
Leg Press….2 sets 4-6 reps
Stiff Leg Deadlifts…2 sets 4-6 reps
Seated Calf Raises…. 2 sets 6-8 reps
Calf Raises On Leg Press….2 sets 6-8 reps

Believe. Achieve.

Fat Loss Tip - Don't Simply Cut Carbs.

Many people are under the misconception they need to cut out carbohydrates when trying to lose fat. The truth is, carbohydrates play a vital role in muscle recovery and if you cut them out of your diet you will hinder your fat loss and muscle building capabilities.

A high carbohydrate diet is not recommended or necessary, however, specific selection and timing of carbohydrates is essential for maximizing your results.

After intense exercise you should consume a high glycemic liquid carbohydrate source to replenish glycogen stores and facilitate greater nutrient uptake. This specific post-workout carbohydrate timing is especially effective when combined with 100% hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate like VP2 whey isolate from AST Sports Science because the high GI carbs will satisfy the body’s energy demands allowing the Whey Protein Isolate to go directly towards muscle support. This is important for those trying to lose fat because the more muscle you can build and maintain while dieting, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be.

You also want to add some high GI carbs to the meals that fall within 3 hours after your workout. This is an important 3 hour window where nutrient uptake capabilities are at their highest.

As I've said before, don't fear carbohydrates rather understand their GI rating and time them accordingly. You should consume most of your carbohydrates and calories within the 3 hour post workout window.

Believe. Achieve.