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BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:40 PM

John Christy Appreciation Thread

This is not going to be like your "typical" biography, which is usually filled with a myriad of impressive college degrees, certifications, accomplishments, etc, etc, etc. I'm not saying that some of that isn't important, but what I feel is most important from a teaching standpoint is that a good teacher has impressive experience "teaching". A good teacher is able to present you with information that puts you on the right path, and inspires you to stay there. There are many, many, so-called authorities with multiple "bells and whistles" attached to their resumes who couldn't teach you diddly. So, with that said let me tell you a little about myself.

I've been around the iron game (and athletics) for a long time. I've been lifting, observing, and learning (college education and various certifications) about strength training and conditioning for over 30 years now. Like many trainees, my discovery and utilization of weight training gave me the ability to compete at a fairly high level of competition; eventually playing Division I college football and professional baseball. After baseball, I wanted to "get as big as possible" eventually reaching 250 pounds at 5' 10" with legitimate 20 inch arms, drug free. I've won a few drug-free bodybuilding titles, and have squatted, deadlifted, and benched some pretty big weights. Today, I'm still very motivated to accomplish some lofty goals in raw, drug-free powerlifting. So, I don't want you to think that my only point of reference is what I've accomplished in the past. I'm still going after it hard now. And I'm still learning things everyday. That's enough about what I've done. What is more important, and what I feel makes someone an accomplished teacher is not what they've done, but what they've helped others achieve.

Pursuing my passion, I started a company 21 years ago to help others accomplish their strength and conditioning goals. Today, Total Fitness Inc. administers over 200 one-on-one training sessions per week. During these 21 years I've logged over 60,000 hours of "hands-on", one-on-one instruction, working with nearly every kind of trainee imaginable. Like most others in my field I've got my list of trainees that have accomplished things, whether it is in powerlifting or sports, that would impress you. Trainees that have set world records in powerlifting to others that have reached the professional level in their chosen sport. But what I feel is just as impressive are the trainees that you won't see in Powerlifting USA or on the football field Sunday afternoon. These are the trainees that have overcome various limitations, to pack on thirty pounds of muscle, perform a double bodyweight squat, to improve their 40 yard dash by two tenths, or to make the starting varsity high school roster. And these accomplishments were achieved while maintaining a 'real life' outside of the gym - at home, in the classroom and at work. These are trainees that after training hard for years, sacrificing much of their 'real life' with not much to show except frustration - that had finally achieved gains in size and strength that they'd only dreamed about. I could take this even further and tell you about my trainees who have reached their ninth decade and are still hitting the iron, but I think you get the point.

I'm blessed to be married to a wonderful lady, and have three beautiful children.

BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:41 PM


1. To implement a strength training / bodybuilding / conditioning program that is designed to achieve your specific goals, based on your specific 'development level', your training 'personality', your 'life responsibilities', and it must allow for complete recovery.

2. To teach every trainee how to achieve a state where they put out maximum effort that results in progression.

3. To Maximize Consistency; eliminating all circumstances that cause missed workouts - primarily overtraining and weight room injuries.

BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:42 PM

The Program
First of all you have to determine what your strength training goals are. And actually there really aren't that many choices here. I know that many in the strength training field would have you believe that there are literally thousands of different strength training methods dependant upon the specific strength qualities or metabolic demands of your chosen activity. Well, it's not really that complicated. If you are in the weight room to enhance performance of any kind (powerlifting, swimming, lacrosse) then your goal in the weight room is to get stronger - period! Now, you may need to do this over different rep schemes, and different exercises dependant upon your activity but that is about as complicated as it gets. You are in the weight room to get stronger, and then you are on the court, on the field, on the track, in the pool, or on the slope - practicing the skills of your sport - to convert that strength to enhance performance. In other words, build the raw strength in your entire body (which will increase your body's ability to produce force) in the weight room and then practice the specific skills of your sport so that the strength will transfer into that specific skill.

If you are training at the right level of intensity - and don't / won't take steroids - the body can't tolerate weight training more than three times per week and 21+ years of experience training a wide variety of trainees, has taught me that in many cases two times per week is better. I am aware that most of you have been bombarded for years by the mainstream muscle building media that more is better when it comes to achieving great size and strength, and nothing could be further from the truth. If you try to apply this philosophy, all you will do is end up hurt, disappointed, frustrated and with not much in the strength and muscle department. If you simply start with following the recommendations of training two to three times per week, you'll be on the road to achieving results. I've turned many trainees into some of the strongest and biggest men that you would ever see and they did it by strength training two times per week.

You need to choose exercises (compound exercises) that work as much muscle mass as possible. For instance, squats and bench presses verses leg extensions and flyes. By utilizing compound exercises you're getting more bang for your effort buck. What I mean by this is that for the amount of time and effort that you would put into, say, a leg extension you would get many times more muscle building and strength building results by putting the same amount of time and effort into a squat. It's really that simple..

To derive the most benefit out of a training program it must be comprehensive. Your training program must address aerobic / anaerobic conditioning, flexibility, nutrition and sport specific skill training. These elements are critical to your success.


There is so much macho B.S. about this subject it makes me sick. It seems that everyone wants to talk about how hard they work. They base a great workout on the fact that they threw-up, passed-out, or trained so hard that they were sore for a week. These trainees lose site of the fact that a great workout is based on the fact that the trainee used more weight or completed more reps on all - or some of - the exercises used during that workout!

Let me tell you one absolute fact that I have learned from all of my years of training and observation; all the effort in the world won't mean diddly if it doesn't manifest itself as weight on the bar, or more reps with a previously used weight. Sure, you have to train hard - very hard - if you expect to produce results (and yes, you might throw-up once in awhile), but once again, it has to be directed at what you're trying to achieve. It's like a fly trying to get out the window but the window is closed. It can try as hard as it wants but it isn't going anywhere until that window is open.

Make sure that you aren't just working hard for the sake of working hard. But work hard for the sake of adding more and more weight to the bar. Here's a good example. Take a trainee who works the bench press to failure using the same weight he always uses - then he performs two to three forced reps, then two to three more negatives, then possibly strip weight off of the bar and perform two or three more forced reps (actually the spotter gets a great low back workout) - a great display of effort but they never try to add weight to the bar. Sure they may make a little progress but once again their effort is misdirected. They are just hitting the dart board instead of hitting the bulls-eye. This trainee would be hitting the bull's-eye if he simply put a couple of more pounds on the bar above what he used in the previous workout and busted his butt to at least achieve, if not complete more reps than he'd done before. This is regardless if he went to muscular failure or not.

Stimulate the body to change by using a little more weight or performing more reps, give it adequate rest and nutrients, then repeat for a number of years and you will achieve results that will astound you. That's it - pretty simple stuff.


In order for your body to change you must subject it to a stimulus on a consistent basis. If you apply the stimulus too often you'll overtrain. If you allow the body too much time away from the stimulus adaptation will cease. When you are strength training at the right frequency (two to three times per week), and at the correct rate of progression, consistency becomes the magical element in training.

Let me ask you a question, and I want you to be brutally honest - not with me - but with yourself. Have you ever trained an entire year without missing a single workout? If you are training two times per week that would equal 104 workouts without missing. Have you ever really done this? I've had trainees that have actually exceeded this number and the results are astounding. I know you love training and wouldn't miss a workout voluntarily. So, what causes you to miss? Is it injuries or illness brought about by overtraining? This is usually the case. Overtraining is a result of you trying to workout on a program that is not designed for a 'real trainee' who has a 'real life' and who doesn't take steroids. These programs are generally not stimulating enough on a per-set basis, but have you training 4 to 6 days per week using 20 to 30 sets per bodypart - a gorilla couldn't recover from this.


Reaching one's ultimate state of physical development takes something more than all the required cliché attributes of hard work, dedication, discipline, and sacrifice, to name a few. It actually requires one more ingredient than the ones that I wrote about above. The one ingredient that is seldom talked about or more importantly not taught is the time requirement involved to achieve one's potential. Great developments in size, strength, power, speed, sports skills, etc. require that one practice all the above for a relatively long period of time - usually many, many years. I use the word relatively because I'm referring to what is usually promoted in the widespread mainstream muscle literature that significant development can occur virtually overnight. And this is a flat-out lie that leads many, many trainees down a road that not only leads to limited physical development, but also to many, many years of frustration.

Well, here's the truth. If a trainee, with average genetics, does everything right he or she can add 15 to 25 pounds of solid weight in 6 months. But this will only be the start. The major transformation will take place over the next three to five years. At this point they will still not have achieved their ultimate state of development - they could go further - but they will have achieved the strength and development beyond what 90% of gym trainees will ever accomplish. And honestly, 3 to 5 years is not a long period of time. Let me paint you a picture of what I'm taking about.

I can take a 5'11", 28 year old trainee who weighs in at 140 pounds and by the time his 31st birthday rolls around he will weigh in the neighborhood of 240 pounds with the strength to match.

Now, I want you to honestly assess how much progress you've made in the last 3 years. Really, how much? How many times have you been hurt and had to stop training? How many different programs have you started and stopped because they didn't bring home the bacon in a couple of months as promised? How frustrated are you because you just cant make progress? Have you convinced yourself that it's just because you have bad genetics? Well, let me assure you it's just because you haven't had a good teacher - yet.

BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:43 PM

The Indirect Effect

This is one reason why the ‘A-B Split Program’ is THE PROGRAM that will give you the results you dream of.

In my estimation; which by the way comes from 32 years of training and over 20 years of hands-on coaching, 99% of the weight trainees of the world have ‘real lives’. By ‘real lives’ I mean they have real life responsibilities / loves such as family, career, academic, spiritual, and social to name a few. The flip side of this is that most of the training information that these 99% use, comes from trainees who don’t have real lives – their only responsibility (or choice thereof) is to train, eat, sleep, and more than likely take steroids. Even some of the rare well-intentioned writers gleam most of their training info from these trainees. These programs or even toned-down derivatives of these programs will not work (or work very well) for you. Be honest. If you have been trying to make a program work for you that is based on the information derived from the 1% - is it really getting you to where you want to be? I know it isn’t.

I can make such a bold statement because I’ve taken a trainee like you (I’m guessing here although I have a 99% chance of being right) put you on a program like that which will be presented in this article, and produced results that will make you as happy as a pig in poop. It will make you incredibly stronger and more muscular. And within a couple of months it will rekindle your belief that you can achieve great things in the gym. Boy, there is nothing like rekindling the human spirit to believe in great things.

For those of you who are not aware here is a basic, generic A-B Split Program performed two times per week that you can refer to, so that you can better understand this article.

Workout A (performed for instance on Monday)

1. Sit-ups

2. Squat

3. Stiff leg deadlift

4. Bench press

5. Dumbbell rowing

6. Barbell static grip

Workout B (performed on Thursday)

1. Sidebends

2. Deadlifts (Bent-legged)

3. Military press

4. Barbell curls

5. Close-grip bench press

6. Standing calf raise

The Indirect Effect

The term ‘Indirect Effect’ is a bit of a misnomer because every exercise stimulates multiple muscles ‘directly’ at the same time. But it is accurate if you take the rationale that the muscles stimulated by a particular exercise have a ‘prime mover’ (the muscle that does the most work and is stimulated the most), and other muscles that ‘help’ the prime mover do its job – which I’ll call ‘synergist-supporters’ in this article. The synergists help out the prime mover to move the weight. The supporters basically have to contract very hard in an isometric fashion to stabilize the body, or parts of the body so that the prime movers and synergists can do their job. What most trainees don’t take into account is that the synergist-supporters have to work almost as hard, and in some cases harder than the prime movers. This means that these muscles are getting stimulated to get stronger (and bigger) and must get sufficient recovery time. If you don’t account for this when designing your training program it will lead to overtraining, overuse injuries and you won’t get nearly the results that you are capable of!

The indirect stimulation of a muscle (or group of muscles) must be figured into the entire scheme of a training program when determining exercise frequency. For instance you must take into account that after performing a single arm row that the bicep got ‘hit’ hard even though it is not considered the prime mover. If the row was performed properly and at the right intensity level the bicep work received during this exercise must be counted as an ‘arm’ workout even though it is primarily considered an exercise for the upper back muscles. Again, if the row was performed properly, no other bicep work needs to be done that workout. Sure you could still perform curls, but they would be performed with much less weight due to the fatigue, and damage accumulated during the row. Also performing curls after the row could take away from complete recovery of the bicep – which you will need for the next workout of the week where direct bicep work is performed. So, the bottom line is that by performing the row (or other major upper back movement) one time per week and performing a curl at another workout, the bicep got stimulated hard twice; it is like you have performed two curl workouts. Now let’s take this example further to see the comprehensive effect of the indirect effect of other exercises on the biceps.

Anyone who squats as hard as they should knows that the arms, especially the biceps, take a beating. So, shouldn’t this be ‘counted’ as a bicep workout? You betcha. Why shouldn’t it? Again, if you are squatting properly; I mean hard, your biceps are worked from holding the bar on your back while retracting the scapula. And as you get more developed, and can squat with more weight the harder your biceps need to work. It is much harder to hold 500 pounds on your back for a set of 5 reps than it is to hold 300 pounds for 5. I’m not saying that a beginning squatter doesn’t get some serious bicep work from holding onto 150 pounds – he does – it’s just that the 500 pound squatters’ biceps have to work even harder. So, the bottom line is that now (counting the bicep work above from the row and curls) you have hit the bicep hard three times.

Taking It Even Further …

Have you ever done serious ab work? I mean sit-ups with a 100 to 200 pound dumbbell held up under your throat with a serious, real, one-second pause at the top of the exercise for a set of 5 to 10 reps? Work up to the point where you can do this and you won’t believe what a beating your biceps take to hold these ponderous weights in position. In actuality it doesn’t even take weights of this magnitude to make the biceps work very hard during this exercise, especially for beginners. Now the bicep has been hit four times; one time directly through barbell curls, and three times very hard indirectly (the rows, squats and sit-ups).

Further Still …

If you do serious grip work – and you should – your biceps get one heck of a workout. Imagine holding a 300 pound barbell with an overhand grip, or two 120 pound dumbbells for two sets of one-minute duration while maintaining a slightly retracted and elevated shoulder position. When you do this the elbow joint should be slightly bent activating the bicep muscle to fire – and fire hard. Again, it won’t take a 300 pound barbell to have a tremendous effect on the biceps. A beginning trainee holding on for dear life with 120 pounds will do the job. When you have worked up to training at the proper intensity on this exercise not only will your arms be ‘fried’, but also your entire body will be shaking. Your biceps will be pumped as if you did a set of high rep curls.

Getting the Point to Sink in.

Now, take a moment to analyze the following:

· Squats with 400 pounds: biceps contracting as hard as possible to stabilize 400 pounds on your back for a duration of at least 25 seconds per set (based on a set of 5 reps) for 3 sets.

· Single-arm dumbbell rows with 120 pound dumbbell: bicep contracting to its limit to help the upper back muscles lift the 120 pounds for 3 sets of 5 reps.

· Sit-ups with 150 pounds: bicep squeezing to hold a 150 pound dumbbell at the collarbone for 2 sets of 10 reps with a one-second pause at the top position.

· Barbell grip work: biceps contracting as hard as possible to help stabilize and protect the elbow with 300 pounds for duration of 60 seconds (for 1 or 2 sets) at the end of a workout.

· And now mix in at a second workout later in the week … Barbell curls in which the bicep is the prime mover for 3 sets of 5 reps with 110 pounds (with a one- second pause at the top).

After digesting this, do you really think the bicep needs more work on a per-workout or weekly basis as a long-term training strategy? Now, there are instances when it is advisable to perform a particular exercise (such as a barbell curl) more than one time per week, like during a specialization period. But do you think the bicep really needs several sets of incline curls, concentration curls and preacher curls after several sets of barbell curls, all performed two times per week to reach their potential after all the work described above? I’ll answer this for you: No way! I hope you can clearly see why most trainees overtrain their biceps and get nowhere near the arm strength and development they are capable of.

I’ve used some fairly impressive poundage’s in the examples given above because I wanted to create an impressive visual representation. But, I want to reiterate that a beginning trainee will get the same effects with much lighter weights – it’s all relative.

Putting it all Together

By utilizing the phenomena of the indirect effect on the entire musculature of the body, the A-B Split provides an almost perfect level of stimulation while allowing for complete recovery through two workouts per week. This program stimulates all the musculature ‘directly’ at least one time per week, and ‘indirectly’ (usually multiple times) during the other – and in some cases both workouts. And as pointed out in the bicep example above, the ‘indirect hit’ is very close in magnitude to a ‘direct hit’- providing quality stimulation. The direct/indirect combo while preventing overtraining in general also prevents specific overuse injuries caused by moving a joint through a specific ‘groove’ with a large force too frequently; such as performing the bench press with maximal loads/volume three times per week.

Let’s walk through this exercise-by-exercise using the A-B template above to see how many muscles, and how many times each of these muscles, gets worked as either a prime mover (directly) or as a synergist-supporter (indirectly). I am going to leave out many ‘smaller’ muscles that contribute to the exercises in order to keep things simple. And the nomenclature used for the specific muscles is going to be kept in familiar gym vernacular.

Workout A


Prime mover(s); abdominals, hip flexors

Synergist-supporters; obliques, biceps, delts, traps


Prime movers; hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, quads

Synergist-supporter; lower back, upper back, abdominals, biceps, calves, forearms

Note: when squatting properly, no muscle is left out of the game!

Stiff-legged deadlifts:

Prime movers; hamstrings, glutes, lower back muscles

Synergist-supporters; all upper back muscles, calves, forearms

Bench press:

*Prime movers; Pecs

Synergist-supporters: delts, triceps, upper and lower back muscles

Dumbbell Rowing:

Prime movers: lats, traps, rhomboids (all upper back muscles), rear delts

Synergist-supporters: biceps, lower back muscles

Barbell static grip:

Prime movers: forearms

Synergist-supporters: all upper and lower back muscles, biceps

* I need to interject here that some strength authorities claim that the triceps are the muscle that does most of the work during a moderately wide grip (competition legal) bench press. This is true only if you are using a bench shirt (especially a tight one) because the shirt is basically replacing the pecs. This is evident when watching a ‘bench-shirt’ bencher compete. When they can’t make the lift it is usually because they can’t lock-out the weight at the top of the movement; the bar will literally shoot off the chest (due to the bench shirt – not real strength) only to come to a complete stop about 3 to 4 inches from lockout. The reality is that the bench shirt can’t help the triceps. This is why strength coaches who advocate competing with a bench shirt push the triceps as the most important part of the bench – which is not true in the real world of strength where a competitor displays his real strength without the help of an artificial aid. Now, I’m not saying the triceps isn’t important – it is – but it won’t mean diddly if your pec strength isn’t up to speed.

Workout B


Prime mover: internal and external obliques

Synergist-supporters: abdominals, all upper and lower back muscles

Deadlifts (all bent-legged varieties)

Prime movers: hamstrings, glutes, hip-flexors, quads

Synergist-supporters: lower back and all upper back muscles, delts, forearms, calves (again, like the squat most of the musculature of the body is hit hard)

Military press

Prime movers: deltoids

Synergist-supporters: triceps, pecs, all upper back muscles (especially traps)

Barbell Curls

Prime movers: biceps

Synergist-supporters: forearms, deltoids, all upper back muscles

Close-grip bench press

Prime movers: triceps

Synergist-supporters: deltoids, pecs, all upper back muscles

Standing Calf Raise

Prime movers: calves, soleus

Synergist-supporters: glutes, hamstrings, quads, traps

Do the math – that is a lot of work for every muscle in the body. Experience has taught me that it is an optimal amount of work combined with an optimal amount of rest when performed two times per week.

In Summary

The indirect effect of an exercise must be taken into account when considering the optimal amount of work for each ‘part’ of the body. Not taking this into account is one of the major reasons why most trainees programs don’t produce the results that they should. And it is major cause of overuse injuries. I’m confident that if you apply what you’ve learned in this article your training will soar to new heights – your strength will jump, you’ll pack on new muscle tissue and you’ll feel great going into each workout.

BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:44 PM

Why Aren't I Getting Any Bigger?

Ah, the grand old question of them all. I know I’ve heard it a thousand times. Well, let me give you the reasons why.

#1. Your eating is lousy.

I know, I know, “you eat all the time”, “you eat like a horse”, “I eat a ton – I just have a fast metabolism”, “I just burn everything off”. Yada, yada, yada. As your coach, my response would be “No you don’t or you would be bigger”. How to eat to get big is really very easy. Doing it, at least at first, is not so easy. Let’s get something straight right away. If you are training properly, which we will get into in a moment, and you are not gaining at least (at least!) two pounds per month, you are not “eating like a horse”. And I assure you it has less to do with a “fast metabolism”, than it has to do with you really not knowing how much you’re eating, or just being plain old not motivated. I would call you lazy, but if you are training hard you’re certainly not lazy. So, the first thing you need to do is to quit fooling yourself into thinking that you “eat a ton”. Let’s really find out how much you’re eating. Write down everything you eat for a day. Get a calorie counter and count the calories – don’t count the junk food. I’ve worked with countless trainees who assure me they are getting 4000 calories or more and when we go to figure it up it turns out to be more in the 2500 range – far from what a horse eats. Then we need to take a look at how much protein you’re getting. If you’re not getting at least one pound per pound of bodyweight then you need to pick it up! The next thing that we would need to address is if you are following what I call the “Three-hour rule”. The Three-hour rule is simply that you need to be eating no later than three hours after the completion of your last “feeding”. For example; if you complete breakfast at 6:30am, you need to be eating by 9:30am. If the 9:30 “snack” is completed by 9:45 then lunch has to be going in by 12:45pm. And so on and so forth for the rest of the day. The reason for this is to prevent the body from going into a catabolic state in which it starts to shutdown your body’s ability to utilize its own fat stores for energy, and instead utilizes protein. Well, this is bad for someone who is trying to gain muscle because instead of building new muscle as a result of yesterday’s workout, your body is actually “consuming” it for fuel. Doesn’t sound to good does it? What I just described is an oversimplification but I hope it paints a good picture for you. So, if you’re one of these trainees who, in reality, eats more like a mouse, gets most of his 2000 calories from anything other than protein, and eats only three “square meals” per day (every five hours or so), then you need to get to work to make some changes.

Now, I would not recommend you to go out and consume 5000 calories on day one. All this will do is make you sick and most of the food will end up in the toilet – via one pathway or another. So, just start off following the Three-hour rule without trying to push for maximum consumption at each feed. In essence just make sure to get all your “feedings” in. Keep the meals small so that your body has a chance to develop the ability to process them. Once you are getting all the feedings in (everyday) then it is time to slowly increase the volume of each feeding. You must increase slowly but consistently – the same thing that you should be doing with the weights. For example, add one egg to the two that you are already consuming for breakfast (I don’t have the time to get into the cholesterol consumption issue here, but if you are concerned eat only half the yolks), and stay with that for several days until your body gets accustomed to that increase. Do this to every feeding. You could also utilize milk to make your progressive increases – just add a little more too each feeding.

Guys, it’s not complicated stuff, just too hard for most people who don’t really want to improve to do it. For the ones that really want to get stronger and bigger, it’ll be no problem. And they will be the ones who are thirty pounds bigger by the end of the year. Either you want it or you don’t – decide! If you are trying to get as big as possible you should be up to 5000 calories within a couple of months.

One of the greatest ways to increase your caloric intake, and it has been around for a long time, is to ingest a weight-gain drink before going to bed. “Blender bombs” (as they are commonly referred to) are one of the great old-time methods for getting in those growth promoting calories. I can’t tell you how many men (and women) have packed on pounds of muscle utilizing this under my tutelage. Blender bombs are easy to make, they’re cheap, and they taste great. All you do is put two to three cups of milk in a blender, add a couple of cups of protein powder, some fruit and maybe some ice cream, blend it up and slowly drink for the next twenty to thirty minutes. If you try and drink it fast all it will do is make you sick, and again, end up in the toilet one way or another. Now, don’t think that you need to run out and buy the latest high-tech protein powder for 50 bucks or more. An alternative is to get some non-fat dry milk powder and use that as your protein powder. It costs about five to six bucks for a big box, and it’s made of a good quality protein source – milk protein! If you want to spend some money on a commercially available powder get one that has protein as its only ingredient with the possible exception of some flavoring. Don’t get fooled (and pay for) some high-tech sounding ingredients. All the hyped “metabolic this-and-that” doesn’t do anything, so don’t waste your money. Back to the flavoring issue for a moment, I suggest that you get a powder that is unflavored, or vanilla flavored, so that you can flavor it the way you want to. If you get some exotic flavor, you’re stuck with that flavor till the can runs out. With unflavored, or vanilla you can change it up all the time.

Okay, now I need to touch on, what could be a rather large subject due to the conditioning methods of the clever “marketers” out there. The subject is putting on some bodyfat while gaining a ton of muscle. All the popular bodybuilding mags, have done a tremendous job of conditioning you to believe that you can gain 50 pounds of muscle and lose fat and look just like one of the steroid freaks in their magazine. Well, they’re lying. Can you put on 30 to 50 pounds in a year? Yes. Will it all be muscle? No. ”So John, how much will be fat?” It depends on several factors; if your weight-training program is stimulating muscular growth, how dedicated you are to an aerobic program, how skinny you are when you started, and genetics. I don’t want to turn a trainee into a fat slob and I never recommend anything that could make someone unhealthy. I want to do just the opposite. If you follow the aerobic recommendations that I have written about in the past, you will minimize fat gain while putting on tons of muscle – which actually improves your bodyfat percentage – will dramatically improve your cardiorespiratory condition, and should improve your blood lipid profile. If you have concerns about this approach negatively affecting your blood chemistry – see your doctor and get some blood work done at the start and throughout the gaining process.

In a perfect world, it would be great if you didn’t have to gain any fat – but if you’re really trying to pack on the muscle as fast as possible there is just no way around it. I have to go back for a moment and say a little more about gaining some fat around the waistline. You know, it always makes me chuckle when I consult with a trainee who is incredibly skinny, has little muscle mass to speak of, and wants to gain as much muscle as possible then says, “ but I don’t want to get fat”. It makes me realize how bad things are out there. I’m talking about the lack of true, honest instruction. I’ve worked with so many trainees who are so misled, that they have wasted years of effort, trying to get big, but trying to also maintain a sub twelve percent (many sub eight percent) bodyfat that they never get anywhere because they’re bodies are never getting the nutrients necessary to pack on the muscle. So, here’s the bottom line: If you want to be 200 (or even 230 to 250 depending on height) pounds of “ripped” muscle. Then you better go to work on getting the muscle first (while getting in great shape, and keeping fat gain to a minimum), by spending the next three to five years getting your weight up to 230 pounds or more, and then concentrating on dropping the bodyfat. You may actually have to do this several times before arriving at 200 pounds “ripped”. The other thing I want you to realize is that it is a lot easier from a metabolic standpoint to lose fat than it is for the body to gain muscle. Simply put - losing fat is easy, gaining muscle is hard.

#2. Your training program is lousy.

For you trainees that have been ‘sort-of’ trying to follow one of the many good programs that were presented in Hardgainer, or that you found on Cyberpump, or even one of my programs, all I can say is quit messing around and ruining them! Many trainees are hybridizing them. What I mean by this is that you’re trying to keep-in some unproductive training methods or exercises.

One of the unproductive methods that I’m referring too is that you are still trying to train too frequently. For example: trying to train four days per week, doing legs two days per week and upper body two days per week. This is just too much for many trainees. Another thing I hear about is trying to perform one of my recommended two times per week programs three times per week. It won’t work!

Another one is where a trainee is actually training properly on his legs, but keeps hitting his pecs with two or three exercises, two to three sets per exercise, every workout. As far as exercises go, dump the flyes as your pec exercise, and learn to bench press properly. I can hear you now, “but I don’t feel the bench in my pecs and flyes make them real sore”. Yea, but I’m confident that the 25-pound dumbbells that you are waving around aren’t making your pecs big and they’re probably why your shoulder hurts. Once again, learn to bench press properly. Dump the laterals raises, and concentrate on shoulder presses. Quit “pre-exhausting” your quads with leg extensions and then performing leg pressing with “little-girl” weights – just because they give you a great “burn” and squatting hurts your back. Let me assure you that the only thing that is going to give you big legs is utilizing big weights (which have NOTHING to do with the “burn”). And if you don’t have a diagnosed back condition, then your back hurts because it’s weak, your abs are weak, and your obliques are weak. So, learn how to squat properly and also strengthen your back, abs and obliques (get your hamstrings flexible too). I think you get the point.

Most trainees change general program formats too frequently – even if it is going from one good program to another. It’s okay to experiment with different approaches, but you are using this (switching programs) as a method to avoid what the problem is with the first program in the first place! For example: after going strong for three months on a good, basic single progression program which utilizes Micro-loading, your ability to add weight – even in the proper amounts – stops. So, the first things you think is that you’ve plateaued or the program doesn’t work for you, and you switch to a ‘HIT’ based program. The new program starts to work awhile (three months again), gains stop (about where they did before – so you’re not any stronger now after six months of training), and once again you switch to something else. Guys, the problem isn’t with the program, it’s with something that you’re doing – or not doing – outside of the program. For instance, instead of changing programs, make sure that you’re eating right. Make sure that you’re attacking the program instead of just “cruising”. Quit ‘shooting the bull’ with your training partner and make a pact that you’re going to concentrate on putting out maximum effort on every set – and to stay focused on the workout throughout the entire session. I’ve helped many trainees continue to make progress without changing anything but their effort and concentration level during each set.

Changing exercises too frequently can also cause problems. The need for variety via the use of different exercises in a program can be important. But it is certainly not necessary very often for the beginner to intermediate trainee. Variety should be introduced into their programs via adjustments in loading parameters – changes in set and rep goals. But this is a far cry from what I’ve seen. What usually happens is that the moment a trainee gets “bored” with their program (because it isn’t producing the results they expected), they figure a change of exercises will get them gaining again – and usually it does – for a little while because they get motivated to train harder and with more focus then they were on their last program. But then it’s right back to the same cycle: limited (if any) progress, boredom, changing the program, limited progress, boredom, changing the program, etc, etc, etc. Because the problem was not with the program in the first place, but with the person performing it – they either weren’t focused while training, or they weren’t doing the things outside of the gym that are absolutely necessary to continued progress. I’ve had trainees who have utilized virtually the same program of exercises (with changes only in set and rep protocols) for several years who end up putting on 50 to 100 pounds of weight, squat and deadlift double (even two and a half times) bodyweight for reps, bench one and one half times bodyweight for reps, and get accused of steroid use. Do you know why these trainees didn’t get bored? Progress. Progress kills boredom. If you are doing everything right outside of the gym, your program is sound and your approach to your program is sound, you will make continual progress for a long stretch of time. And I assure you that if you are making progress week in and week out you will not get bored.

#3 Your technique stinks

Clean up your technique. This will improve your leverage making you capable of hoisting heavier loads of iron – eventually. But you’ll need the guts and the foresight to cut the weights back a little at first till you re-learn to perform each movement correctly. Once you do your gains will soar and it will also help that shoulder, elbow or knee to stop hurting from the abuse they’ve taken from your poor technique.

#4 Get some rest

Cut the TV a little earlier at night and get to bed. Enough said.

#5 Train harder

Are you really giving it all you've got? Or are you so focused on everything else (technique, breathing, "the feel of the movement", etc) - even if it is stuff you need to focus on - that you forget to push or pull on that bar as hard as you can? You must concentrate on using great technique, but maximum effort always has to be there.

In Conclusion

Knowing what to do is easy. Developing the discipline necessary to do it is the hard part. I have the utmost confidence that you can develop great strength and a physique that you can be proud of if you’ll just develop the discipline to stay focused on all the basics inside the gym and out. If you do this – and you must if you are to succeed – I’m sure the question will change to “ I wonder how much bigger I can get?”

BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:45 PM

Training Reality

So, how’s your last month of training been? Have you stuck to the basics and made “a little” but steady progress or have you abandoned ship because progress was “okay” but too slow and are currently trying a “wonder program” written by some arm-chair theoretician or steroid using phony that guarantees to put 20 to 30 pounds on your best bench press in 30 days? I can tell you that the trainee who put four pounds on his or her best bench last month (and the five months before that) is the one who is making great progress. Think about that for a moment. In 12 month’s time, that trainee’s bench press will be up 48 pounds. And I’m talking about being up 48 pounds on sets of three to five reps. Their one rep max will have gone up much more than that. What I just described is not just a use of mathematics to show you what could happen; it is not just some theory that I have. It has proven itself over and over again with the many trainees that I have coached. It is “training reality”. This is truly how great size and great strength are developed. It is developed one pound at a time. Now I know that many “Nay Sayers” are thinking that this sounds good and all but you can’t continue to progress at this rate forever or you would have trainees benching thousands of pounds. This is true – but you can maintain this rate of progression for a long, long time -- long enough to put any trainee into a category that most trainees will never reach.

So, what about for the long haul? Well, what happens is that the rate of progression slows – but it doesn’t stop. If a plateau does occur then you simply adjust a workout variable (volume, frequency, rep scheme, auxiliary work, regeneration period, etc.) and you start making slow but steady progress again – one pound at a time! An advanced trainee may add “only” one or two pounds per month to their best lifts – but so what? This is great progress for an advanced trainee. Let me give you an example. A trainee who weighs 200 to 220 pounds and can bench press 350 to 400 pounds (drug free, no bench shirt, with a one second pause on the chest) is truly an advanced trainee. So, the addition of one pound per month “only” equates to 12 pounds per year. I know that doesn’t seem like much but over the next five years that trainee will be benching somewhere between 400 to 460 pounds! How many trainees have you actually witnessed come into the gym, warm-up, and “only wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt” bench that much weight? Really think about that for a minute. I bet not many. Of course that trainee will be able to bench 360 to 415 pounds for three to five reps – with a pause on the chest! This event won’t be a one-time shot either (like a powerlifting meet), because that same trainee will be coming into the gym next week to do it again. Wouldn’t you like to be able to do this? Well, starting with the right thinking, the right program, and patience – you can achieve equally outstanding results.

I feel that I need to digress for a moment and talk about what I am calling “outstanding” results – using the bench press example that I used too above. I know that many of you have been “brainwashed” by the so-called 700 to even 1000 pound benches that you’ve been hearing about, so that a “measly” 400 pounds doesn’t sound like much. So, I want to shed some light on this and put things in perspective. If you don’t know it already, it is a fact that those 700 pound benchers couldn’t bench anywhere near those weights without the steroids and the bench shirts that they are wearing. Do you know that a bench shirt can now add over 150 pounds to what someone can really bench – that is, without a bench shirt? And the steroids are adding at least another 100 pounds or more. Here is a great example. I recently heard a very popular, steroid using strength coach say that he had a trainee who competes in the 308 pound class and benched in excess of 620 pounds in competition. He goes on to say that this same trainee (only) benches 405 pounds for five reps in the gym without the bench shirt that he wears in competition. That equates to roughly a “raw” (no bench shirt) 450 pound max – which isn’t that impressive for a man that weighs over 300 pounds! So, the bench shirt is giving him over 170 pounds on his competition max – how absurd! This guy is not a 620 pound bencher! As he now starts to approach “reality”, his bench is at 450pounds! But wait, there is more. Take away the steroids and he’ll lose about 50 to 80 pounds of muscle and now, in “reality land” he’ll be able to bench “only” 350 pounds at a bodyweight around 240 pounds. Welcome to the real world.

That is why I used the term “so-called” in the sentence above to describe the 700 pound+ benchers. I’ve been around the iron game now for over 31 years and in all that time I have only witnessed one maybe two (the second guy might have been on steroids) “real” 500 pound bench presses, and only a couple dozen 400’s. Now I am not saying that there haven’t been others who have legitimately benched more -- for I know that Pat Casey benched 600 pounds without drugs or a bench shirt – the point that I am trying to make is that a 400 pound bench (or better stated a double bodyweight bench) is a rare and tremendous feat for those who live “in the real world” of strength training.

With that said, let’s get back to the gist of this article – the “real” trainee who is building great strength “one pound at a time”. One last important point needs to be made, and this is dealing with a trainee’s expectations. Most trainees expect more than the body can deliver in the short term – but then this same trainee goes on to sell himself short over the long term. What do I mean by this? Well, it’s like the example I started with, most beginner and intermediate trainees are looking for that “secret” program that can add 20 to 30 pounds to their bench in a month or two (unrealistic short term goal), but then convince themselves that they have only average genetics, don’t have the time, the dog ate their computer generated training program, or that without drugs, they need to be “realistic” and can only expect minimal results over the long term (unrealistic long term goal). This is exactly the opposite way that you need to think. You need to have realistic short term expectations – like increasing your five rep bench by four pounds per month – but then have “big” long term goals – like benching double your bodyweight after ten to twelve years of training.

I’m confident that if you approach your training with the “one pound at a time” mindset, you will develop a physique and strength level that few achieve. Starting with realistic, achievable, short term goals – like getting those four pounds per month – and then “dreaming big” about what you can achieve over the long haul will help you to stay motivated and stick with a program that really delivers results. Most of all don’t ever underestimate what you can accomplish.

BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:46 PM

Get It Right This Time

Take a moment to reflect on your training. More specifically, reflect on if you are really making progress. Almost all serious weight trainees want either to get bigger, get stronger or both. So, are you? Be serious about this. Measure your arms, chest, and thighs – are they bigger or not? Can you squat; bench, curl more weight than you could for the same number of reps than you could 3 (6, 9, 12) months ago?

Long time readers of my material will recognize where I’m headed with this line of questioning: If you aren’t measurably bigger, measurably stronger, or both, than you were 6 months ago – then guess what? Your training time has been wasted. If you’re serious about making gains then this realization should make you sick.

I’ll give you a moment to get over the nausea.

Now let’s do something about it and get it right this time so that after busting your butt for 6 months you are definitely bigger and stronger. First off, you’re not going to go back to doing the same ole things because all you’ll get is the same ole results – or lack thereof. Second you need to find out where you’re messing up. Here’s a ‘to the point’ checklist:

1. You’re following the program of some stupid steroid-using phony. If you’re not a steroid using phony then the program is not going to work. All you’ll do is overtrain and ‘under-stimulate’.

2. You start out trying to follow a decent program but you keep switching to new programs every time you read a new article. Or you keep messing up a good program by trying to do too much (too many sets, too many exercises), or trying to do too little (one workout every 2 weeks), or not working hard enough, or not focusing on being progressive, or getting hurt too often because your technique stinks.

3. You’re not consistent because you’re constantly hurt.

4. You think you’re eating to gain, but in actuality, your caloric consumption resembles more of what my 9-year old daughter eats. Or … you rely on worthless ‘super-supplement’ powders, ‘metabolic optimizers, and a whole host of other junk.

Be honest in your assessment. If you do this I can help you to make your training productive and you’ll be happy as a pig in poop. I know you don’t want to bust your butt for another year – let alone another workout – and not make any progress.

Now let’s knock off the list one point at a time.

1. Get on a program that is designed to work for a real trainee with a real life – a proven program that works for trainees who don’t take steroids. A ‘real trainee’ has a serious career/job, a real family, friends, real academic responsibilities and a whole host of other ‘real’ stuff to do – and yet they want to be huge and/or strong as they can be. They want it all without sacrificing anything.

Weight train either 2 or 3 times per week. Perform whole body routines consisting of big basic exercises (squat, rows, presses, etc.) Read the excerpt from chapter one of my book “How to Design Your Training Program” and check out the workout templates that I present there. It’s only an excerpt from the chapter but I give you enough info to set up a good program.

2. If you are seasoned enough to know and implement a good program then be seasoned enough and disciplined enough not to be fooled by the workout ‘flavor of the month’. If you are promised to add 20 pounds of ‘rock hard’ muscle to your physique and increase your bench by 50 pounds in a month - then the purveyor of the information is a liar or a steroid user. The body can undergo a tremendous transformation in size and strength in a year or two – which is fast – but it will take a year or two. How much progress have you made in the last two years anyway?

Quit performing a whole bunch of worthless sets (going for the ‘pump’, ‘ the burn’, ‘using multiple angles’, yada, yada, yada). A worthless set is one in which you are not being progressive in your approach; i.e. Using more weight. Maybe you’re doing a whole bunch of worthless exercises. If you are doing either of the above (worthless sets or exercises) then all that you are doing is using up fuel and not stimulating an ounce of muscle gain.

Quit adding ‘extra’ exercises for a lagging bodypart or weak link. If you are trying to bring up the size and/or strength of the triceps for example and have properly performed 3 sets of close grip bench presses what is the addition of 3 sets of pushdowns supposed to do? I’ll tell you what it’ll do. It’ll overtrain the area causing elbow problems (goodbye tricep size, hello ice bags), and simply use up fuel. These are known as ‘garbage sets’. Once you’ve hit the close grips hard and progressively, the tricep is as stimulated as it needs to be.

If you have fallen prey to the ‘all you need is one workout every two weeks thinking’ all you’ll get is enough stimulation that will create an adaptation that will last about 4 or 5 days and in the subsequent time thereafter all you’ll do is lose what you’ve gained in those few days. Most trainees get some very limited success with this method for a short period because I think they are severely overtrained coming into it.

Another reason I believe is that they feel that they need all that time in between workouts to recover properly – because they were tired all the time when they trained 2 or 3 times per week. The truth of the matter is that these trainees are just poorly conditioned or eat terribly – most likely both reasons. Twenty-one years of training weight trainees one-on-one has taught me that all trainees can train 2 times per week and make tremendous gains.

You have to train hard to make gains – but how hard is hard enough? I can’t delve into this topic completely as it would take a book to give you my two cents. Again, experience has taught me (and empirical data from 100 years of evidence supports this) that if you train within one rep of failure or to a point where you complete the goal rep of a set with all you have – and stop without attempting the next rep in which you would fail - you will have achieved an optimal amount of stimulation. By training at this effort level you will also be able to maintain perfect lifting biomechanics (making you very efficient which allows you to lift more weight), and foster a positive mind set. Sure you can train to failure and make good gains also – I just know from my experience that ‘beating failure’; completing your last ‘hard to complete’ rep then stopping produces good gains consistently over the long haul of your training life.

I bet you haven’t heard a strength coach say this: Does it really matter how hard you train as long as you are able to consistently lift more weight? One month from now if you can bench press 10 more pounds on your 5 rep set and you didn't even get close to muscular failure - does it matter that your intensity of effort wasn't beyond 100%? Now of course you have to work very hard to make gains - I just wanted to give you another way of judging your workout efforts based on what matters the most: PROGRESS!

You must focus your efforts on being progressive – you must lift heavier and heavier weights. So many trainees are focused on everything but that. Even well-intentioned trainees get caught up in measuring the success of a workout on how hard they’ve trained; how they had to lay on the floor for a half-hour after the workout, how ‘beat-up’ they are, or how many times they’ve cramped and thrown-up. A successful workout is one in which you’ve lifted more weight on some if not all exercises – even if it is only a pound or two. Now if you are in the ‘lay on the floor and throw-up’ scenario above and you’ve lifted more weight that workout then you have been successful also. My point is; make sure your efforts produce measurable strength increases.

Unless you are a rank beginner, you know if your technique stinks or not. And you know how to ‘clean it up’ but you don’t want to because you’ll have to use less weight and your ego just can’t tolerate that. Well, I suggest you make the rational decision to ‘clean it up’ because that pain you’re feeling in your X (replace the X with any joint that is constantly hurting; shoulder, elbow, knee, back, etc) will become so bad that it will stop you from training if it hasn’t already. And I don’t mean that it will stop you from training for a few weeks – it may stop you from performing certain movements forever!

3. You must minimize your risk of injury in the weight room so that you can train consistently. I have stated many times in the past that consistency is just as important as progression. You won’t be able to be progressive if you can’t be consistent. If you constantly have to ‘re-start’ exercises (using reduced weights because you’re weaker) after you’ve come off an injury all you’ll be doing is covering ‘old’ ground. Once you start closing in on your personal records again, you get hurt again, only to have to let the injury rest and start over again. What a viscous cycle. Make sure you use weight increases that your body can really handle and get your technique in order! See the paragraph above.

4. Quit screwing around and eat to gain. Quit worrying about your pretty waistline. You’re fooling yourself if you think that you’re going to pack on some serious mass – and when I mean ‘serious mass’ I’m talking about gaining at least 30 pounds – and trying to get a ‘six-pack’ at the same time. Now, I don’t want you to turn into a fat unhealthy slob, gaining 30 pounds and half of it is fat. But, with the proper application of aerobic work you’ll be able to keep your fat gain to a minimum and keep/get your heart and lungs in good shape.

Quit relying on goofy supplements. Find out how many calories you’re really consuming. Then slowly increase it by 500 calories per week, eating 5 to 6 meals per day, until you are gaining at least one pound per week. You will have to work at this. Many of my trainees have said that getting your nutrition right; eating enough, is one of the hardest parts to gaining. Because unlike the ‘training’ part in which you lift 2 to 3 times per week, you have to constantly focus on your food intake 7 days per week, every 3 hours. Sure it’s tough to do, but if you really ‘want it’ then you’ll ‘do it’.

The only supplements you should use is a good multi-vitamin and multiple mineral pill along with protein powder to augment the food you eat. Don’t use a protein powder that has a bunch of worthless junk in it. One of the best that I know of is called Just Protein. You can get it at Or if you are lactose intolerant then try one that is nearly lactose free like Designer Protein.

Please take this article to heart. Apply what you’ve learned. Don’t settle for anything but the best results that your body is capable of. You can achieve greatness but you’re going to have to earn it. Apply what you’ve learned in this article and six months from now you’ll be in ‘PR’ territory and will have finally 'gotten it right this time'.

BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:46 PM

The Supra Warm-up Set

The term ‘warm-up set’ is actually a misnomer. In other words the sets preceding your work sets should not be warming you up. If you have performed a proper pre workout general warm-up then your body is already ‘warm’ – blood volume in the bodies working musculature has been increased. The sets preceding your work sets should really be termed ‘progressive recruitment sets’ as their purpose is to increase the bodies’ recruitment of needed muscle fibers in the working musculature to prepare it to perform optimally during the work sets. Since I’m not going to be able to make the world of strength training make a paradigm shift and start calling warm-up sets ‘progressive recruitment sets’ (too long of a name anyway) I’ll be using the name warm-up sets throughout this piece.

There are basically two schools of thought on warm-up sets.

High rep ‘Narrow Pyramid’ approach.

This is were a trainee performs warm-up sets with a relatively higher rep count then what they will use on their work sets. For example if a trainee is performing work sets of 5 reps he would perform warm-up sets of 12, 10 and then 8 reps before beginning the work sets of 5 reps. Trainees that use this approach like the feeling of having a lot of blood in the working muscles before beginning the work sets. The draw back here is that it consumes a lot of energy that could be saved for the work sets. Out of this reasoning came the lower rep alternative.

Low rep ‘Broad Pyramid’ approach.

This approach has the trainee performing sets of 5, 3 and then 1 rep(s) before hitting the work sets of 5 reps.

Both methods work about the same as long as that last warm-up set is within 10% to 15% of the working weight used for the first work set. They both prepare the body by progressively recruiting nearly as many fibers as will be needed to effectively perform your first work set. Again, the difference is that the higher rep approach uses up more of the energy substrates needed for the work sets.

A Real World Example

Now let me give you more of a real world example of how progressive recruitment works using the traditional methods of ‘warming-up’, which will then give you a better understanding of why Supra Warm-up sets work so well.

Let’s say that you are to squat with 300 pounds for 3 sets of 5 reps. The 300 pounds is a good ‘working weight’ in that it will be a challenging weight to make all 3 sets with - although you should be able to do it with maximum effort. Let’s also assume that we know that you’ll need to recruit 100 muscle fibers in your quadriceps/hip flexors to do this effectively for the first rep of the first work set. No one knows exactly how many fibers are needed so I just picked a number just to serve as an example.

Performing your last warm-up set with approximately 85% to 90% of the 300-pound ‘working weight’; 255 to 270 pounds will get you very close to recruiting all the fibers you’ll need to effectively perform that first work-set repetition. So, for this example, let’s say that the 270-pound last warm-up set will recruit 90 muscle fibers. This is pretty good for when you perform the first rep with 300 pounds for the first work set it will not ‘stun you’ by feeling exceptionally ‘heavy’. Although it will feel heavier than the last warm-up set you performed.

Any experienced trainee will confirm that usually the second set performed with the same 300 pounds [after a rest interval that replenishes most of the ATP needed (5 minutes)] will feel relatively ‘lighter’ then the first set did – even if the first set was very tough to complete. This is because the body has already recruited the 100 muscle fibers (and more) that will be needed again to perform the first rep of the second set. When the 300 pounds hit the body on the first set the body said, “Whoa, I was really ready for the 270 pounds again.” On the second set the body didn’t have to adjust neurologically on the first couple of reps – so the body didn’t have the “Whoa” response. So, not only does the weight feel relatively lighter on the second set, but also technique improves because of the specific recruitment of the proper amount of fibers needed by all the muscles involved in the exercise.

With this ‘second set feeling lighter than the first ‘ scenario in mind let me introduce you to a method that will make that first rep (and actually the first several reps) of your first work set feel ‘light’.

The Supra Warm-up Set.

The Supra Warm-up set ‘over prepares’ the body neurologically for those first few reps of the first work set by recruiting more fibers than it’ll need. The first few reps of your first work set will feel ‘light’ and your technique will be enhanced. Here’s how to do it.

Again, I’ll use the example of performing squats with 300 pounds for 5 reps although Supra Warm-up sets can be used regardless of your working set rep goals – even if you are performing sets of near max singles.

After performing the last warm-up set with 270 pounds (as in the example above) rest at least 3 minutes and perform 1 rep with 315 pounds. Rest 3 minutes again and hit the 315 again. The 315 pounds should be relatively easy to complete for 1 rep because your 1 repetition max (1RM) will be around 330 pounds since you can perform 5 reps with 300 pounds. Now after a 3-minute rest, reduce the weight to 300 pounds and start your work sets. Again, the weight will feel light giving you not only a physiological advantage due to ‘supra-recruitment’ but will give you a confidence boost as well.

If you are performing sets of higher reps use a weight that is about 5% to 10% more than your working weight. The Supra Warm-up set only needs to be preformed for one rep and for no more than two sets (some trainees may only need one set). It’s purpose is to ‘over-recruit’ fibers used for your work sets - not to cut into your energy stores. Also, I would suggest that you take a rest interval of at least 3 minutes before beginning your first work set to make sure that ATP (the energy providing substrate) stores have been adequately replenished. The body will also need this time to replenish an important enzyme (aceytlcholinesterase) at the neuromuscular junction.

Supra Warm-ups for Heavy ‘Singles’ Training.

So, how do you apply Supra Warm-ups when your working weights are very near your 1RM? Easy. Use a weight that is 5% to 10% above your max.

“Wait a minute John, how can I lift a weight that is above my 1RM?”

You can’t. But you can lower it.

The Supra Warm-ups used for heavy single rep training are eccentric; negatives. Let’s go back to the squat scenario.

Let’s say you’re going to perform 5 single-rep sets of squats with 325 pounds. After completing your last traditional warm-up with 295 pounds, load the bar to 340 pounds and simply descend slowly to the bottom position of the squat. Of course make sure you have some type of spotter pins / safety device that can stop and hold the bar at the bottom while you crawl out underneath. Take approximately 3 to 4 seconds (a real 3 to 4 seconds; you know – “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two” etc) to lower to the bottom. Don’t take any longer than this as too much fatigue will build up possibly impeding your performance when you start your work sets with the 325 pounds. One to two sets will do the job. If you perform two sets make sure that you take at least 3 minutes – 5 minutes would be better – between sets so that the Supra Warm-up sets don’t turn into your work sets.

In Summary

Using a Supra-Warm-up set(s) before your work sets is one of the rare methods in strength training in that it’s application will have an immediate positive effect the very first time you use it. Almost all other training methodologies/techniques/tips take time – some many months - to show a measurable positive effect. Try it at your next training session and take advantage of the ‘over-prepared’ state that your muscles will be in when you attempt that first work set. You won’t be disappointed.

BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:48 PM

New Year Check-list

Let’s start the year off right and make a commitment to making it the best training year that you’ve ever had. To help you accomplish this I’m going to put together a check-list for you, and if you really use it – it’ll get the job done.

Your Workout Program

I want you to get out last years training journal and go through it with me. I’m serious; go get it right now I’ll wait. We’re going to use it as we go through the checklist. We need to find the areas where you didn’t do what you know you were supposed to do. And we’re going to find the things that you know you shouldn’t be doing, but you kept doing them anyway and probably ended up getting sick, hurt, overtrained, or at the least you ended up with zero results. Go get it – it’ll be a good reference tool.

□ Structure your workout properly

How many days per week were you working out? Was it two or three? Or were you trying to be like the steroid users and hit it four or more times per week? If you were able to train more than three times per week then several things were happening. You have no responsibilities in your life outside of training, or you aren’t training as hard as you should be, or you are taking steroids. After being in the game as long as I have, and after working with so very many trainees, I have very, very few who strength train more than three times per week. Experience has taught me that you can make much more progress strength training two to three times per week. And isn’t that what it’s all about anyway – making progress? If you just love training and can’t fathom being in the gym only two or three times per week well then you need to satisfy this craving by spending another two days performing aerobic work (which will not stress you systemically) and possibly doing some other type of General Physical Preparation (GPP) work. Your GPP work could possibly include low level plyometrics/medicine ball work as presented in the chapter (From my book: REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE) Complete Conditioning Part II, light kettlebell work, or even participating in a sport. This scenario actually gives you four to five total workouts per week. So, take a good look at your journal and be honest with yourself. Did you try and hang on to a weight training program that had you training more than three times per week even though progress was less than you expected? If so, take a good look at the last workout of each week. Was it consistently sub-par in the performance department? Did you make any notes on how you were feeling? Do you remember having to pound some extra coffee to get that workout going? Were you constantly nursing a sore elbow, back or shoulder? Did it really get you the results you thought it should?

You’ve got to face reality. If you have a real life with career, family, academic, church, and other responsibilities, there is no way you can train four or more times per week while maintaining a balanced, happy life and make any significant progress in strength and size. And I have found that in many cases even three sessions per week is too much - once the switch is made to two sessions the results start pouring in. A side-effect is that you get your work completed on time so you get a promotion at work, or, you go from being a “C” student to an “A” student, or, your wife and kids actually start seeing you more often and can stop carrying a picture of you around (so that they could remember what you look like).

Okay, so let’s get a good workout structure for the coming year. Here are generic workout templates to be performed two times per week and three times per week.

Day one

1. Crunch 1 x 5-20

2. Squat 2-5 x 5-15

3. Stiff-legged deadlift or back extension 1 x 10-15

4. Bench press 2-5 x 5-15

5. Pulldown, Chin, or Row 2-5 x 5-15

6. Calf raises 1 x 5-20

7. Static grip 1 x 60-90 seconds

Day two

1. Sidebend 1 x 5-15

2. Deadlift 2-5 x 5-15

3. Military press 2-5 x 5-15

4. Barbell curl 2-5 x 5-15

5. Close-grip bench press 1-3 x 5-15

6. Wrist curl 1 x 15-20

7. Reverse wrist curl 1 x 15-20

Here is the three times per week template. Recommended sets and reps are the same as the two times per week template.

Day one

1. Squat

2. Stiff-legged deadlift or back extension

3. Bench press

4. Pulldown, Chin, or Row

5. Wrist curl

6. Reverse wrist curl

Day two

1. Crunch

2. Barbell curl

3. Military press

4. Calf raises

Day three

1. Sidebend

2. Deadlift

3. Close-grip bench press

4. Static Grip 1 x 60 seconds

I kept the rep range broad because the rep target that you choose needs to be based on your goals and training experience. I generally recommend new trainees to start out utilizing higher rep targets in order to help develop motor skills (technique) and to keep the overall force on the connective structures relatively low (compared to sets of five reps and below). To go into great detail on how to structure a program is beyond the scope of this article. To learn more about how to structure a workout program in detail read Designing Your Training Program (read excerpt).

□ Choose exercises that are productive and safe

There are many exercises that you could substitute for the ones that I have listed above. But, they have to be productive and safe. A productive exercise is generally one that works a lot of muscle per time spent performing it; the squat works more leg muscle than the leg extension. A safe exercise is one that puts the body’s hard and soft tissues in a position that creates the least amount of un-natural stress; the bench press versus the pec fly. This definition of a safe exercise is a broad one. There are trainees who might have specific limitations that would make an otherwise safe exercise under the definition above, a dangerous one to perform. Exercise selection then becomes an individual matter based on a trainee’s goals and limitations. The exercise list that follows is based on these criteria, and experience had taught me that they can be performed by almost all trainees as long as they know how to perform each exercise correctly.

Many trainees that I’ve either worked with, or have consulted with continue to try to hang onto “old favorites” even when they are causing injuries, or that they think are going to produce results better than a safer exercise. Stop performing un-safe exercises. Your shoulder is killing you from performing flyes yet you’re still doing them because benching just doesn’t seem to work your pecs. You keep doing leg extensions because squats hurt your knees. How about those lateral raises with 10 lb dumbbells? I bet they give you a great burn but your deltoids aren’t any bigger and they sure as heck aren’t turning you into a strongman. Here’s one that always makes me laugh; you can complete over 500 total reps of various weenie abdominal exercises in a 10 minute period yet you have no abdominal development to speak of and your back always gets hurt when you squat. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Let me give you some simple advice on the scenarios presented above, in the order that I presented them.

Benching isn’t building your pecs because you don’t know how to bench. Ninety-nine percent of the time squatting hurts your knees because you don’t know how to squat. Or another reason is you are simply making an excuse about your knees because you don’t want to work hard and squatting requires you to work hard. Mr. Steroid in Mainstream Muscle magazine says the lateral raise hits the side delt like nothing else. Remember, Mr. Steroid knows nothing about “real” muscle building. If you want to “hit the side delt” then make it lift well over one hundred pounds over your head by using a Military press instead of using a relatively miniscule weight on the lateral raise. Five hundred reps in 10 minutes should give you a great burn in your abs, but it’ll do nothing to build strength or “grow” impressive abdominal muscles. Perform one to two sets of direct abdominal work per week and build up to where you can perform a feet-supported crunch for 10 reps with a 150 lb. dumbbell held high on your chest, and your abdominals will be as strong and developed (you’ll see them if your bodyfat is low enough) as you’ll ever need.

It is beyond the scope of this article to give you a list of all the “safe and productive” exercises that exist. But here are the mainstays that should comprise 99% of your training.

Legs – Squats (most varieties), Bent-leg deadlifts, Stiff-leg deadlifts, Leg press, Leg curls, Pullthroughs, Glute-ham raises, Romanian deadlift, Lunges, Cleans

Chest – Bench presses with barbell or dumbbells, Dips, Weighted Push-ups

Upper back – Dumbbell rows, Chest supported machine rows, Chin-ups with supinated, pronated, or parallel grips, Pulldowns with various grips, Power cleans, High pulls

Lower back – All deadlifts, Back extensions, Arched-back good mornings, Romanian deadlifts

Abdominals – Weighted Feet-supported crunches, Weighted sit-ups, Hanging leg raises, Sidebends

Shoulders – All overhead pressing with barbell or dumbbells, Various “raises” dependant on circumstances

Arms – Standing or seated curls with barbell or dumbbells, Close-grip bench presses, Dips, Bench dips, Pushdowns, Lying extensions

Forearms – Static grip work, Gripper machines or hand grippers, Wrist curls and Reverse wrist curls, Finger extension in rice

Calves – Standing calf raises on machine or with barbell or dumbbells

□ Make sure your technique is good

First make sure you know what good technique is. Study this book; there is technique instruction throughout its pages – especially the pictures. And look for my forthcoming book REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE - Exercise Techniques Developed from the Trenches. In the mean time I would suggest the book The Insiders Tell-All Handbook on Exercise Technique by McRobert. I helped to edit this book and although the instruction is very basic and limited in detail, it is sound.

Once you know what good technique is you have to have a method that holds you accountable. The best is videotape. If you don’t own one, borrow one or rent one. Video a workout every couple of months and really analyze it. Don’t just watch the tape to see how good (or bad) you look. Really take the time to “break the tape down”. View a specific repetition of a specific exercise over and over again. You may want to get out of the chair you’re sitting in and practice what needs to be changed. Did all of your squats really make it to parallel (if you can safely squat to this depth), or did the last two or three cut it a little short so that you could make your target rep. Be honest. Using this example, did you perform them “short” (not achieving the correct depth) for several months because you were adding weight too fast? Maybe you just weren’t concentrating hard enough on getting to parallel.

What about your bench press? Did the last couple of reps become more of a “bounce” off of your chest versus a “light tap”? On the last very difficult rep of a set in which you failed, did your chest “cave in”, instead of maintaining the retracted position of your upper back? If you had concentrated on staying retracted instead of just “panicking” to make that rep any way possible I guarantee that you would have made it.

Are you leaning back to make your last couple of reps on curls? Are your elbows moving backward to initiate the movement and then forward to complete it? If so, you are missing out on thorough bicep stimulation.

Take a good look at your lat pulldowns. Are you pulling them “down” in front of you or are you pulling the bar “into” your clavicle / upper chest area? So, you’re getting a good bicep workout but you don’t feel them in your back the way you should be.

I could go on and on about all exercises, but I think you get the point. Make sure you have your workout journal with you so that you can write down technique changes that need to be made. Make a list at the front of your journal of what you need to work on for each exercise. Then make sure you transfer that note to the top of the workout page for the particular day that exercise is performed so that you can be reminded of what change to focus on. Make it a priority this year to get it right. Really earn the next pound or two on the bar. Don’t fool yourself. Use video to hold yourself accountable.

□ Commit to working hard

Have you ever noticed the number of different sensible programs that have produced results for trainees over the years? Each of these different interpretations of sensible training has examples of successful trainees who received great results. Even programs that are not so “sensible” produce some results for “regular” trainees that aren’t on steroids. This contradiction is a major source of confusion and frustration for many trainees. So, you may ask, what gives? Here’s the reason. Outside of gym factors held constant; the reason is good old fashioned hard work that results in progression (more weight on the bar) performed for a long time. What has become known as High Intensity Training will work for some because they like it, and will work hard at it for a long time. Single progression will work because trainees they like it and will work hard at it for a long time. Periodization type programs, double progression programs, and even Conjugate training will work for the same reasons. But, there’s a flip-side to this. Some trainees won’t make progress on anything because when it gets right down to it, they either don’t want to work hard enough (or aren’t conditioned to work hard enough) or won’t stay at it long enough. So, if you think you’re going to “Micro-load” your way to the top without working hard, you’re fooling yourself. No matter what interpretation of sensible training that you follow you must hold yourself accountable to simply putting out maximum effort.

Here is my definition of what constitutes hard work as applied to my primary training approach; single progression type of program that utilizes Micro-loading as the means of progression. If you are not just starting out (or starting over) on a weight training program, then the last rep you perform on any “live” set should be the last one that you can perform while maintaining good technique. Theoretically, this is the ideal, but it is not realistic that you will be at this “spot” every workout until you become very experienced utilizing Micro-loading and reading what your body is capable of doing. Let me explain further. Let’s say that you’ve been Micro-loading on the Military press for 16 weeks adding a pound per week to your three sets of six reps. You started the program under my guidance and I “set” your initial workout poundage knowing that rep six on the last set was the last rep that you could perform. During the ensuing 16 weeks you’ve been “busting your butt” to make that last rep on the last set – or so you think. At this point I instruct the trainee (he is not training under my direct guidance in this example) to perform the “go to failure test”. Every four months or so take the last live set of each exercise you perform and go to muscular failure. Find out if you have any reps left in you. I call these reps “reserve reps.” Many trainees that have started out on a single progression based program utilizing Micro-loading as the means of progression get into such a training “groove” that each workout becomes automatic – they can continually add that pound or two to the bar and keep making their goal reps. This is absolutely great and is what makes Micro-loading work so well, but, this can also work against you. It can lull you to sleep; into complacency. And that’s what happened in the example above. At week 10 the trainees body had super-compensated for the pound that he had been adding to the bar each week and his body was really capable of making a seventh rep on the last set, and by week 16 he could actually make an eighth rep – but the trainee is so conditioned (on autopilot) to his current “effort level” he doesn’t realize that he’s not putting out his best. So, if he continues to add the pound a week he is not working as hard as his body is capable (because he has two reserve reps left in him) and thus not getting the best results possible. By “testing” himself he would realize that those two extra reps are in there and readjust his rate of progression for the next workout by adding three pounds instead of the one that he was adding and this will then challenge his body at the right level. As a trainee becomes more experienced at using Micro-loading I instruct them to “take the extra rep” in every workout if they know they can make it. But, it takes time to develop the training instinct to know when that is.

If you are a trainee that uses a program that requires you to “train to failure”, make sure you’re not fooling yourself. What I mean by this is that I’ve had trainees who I’ve seen purposefully “slow up” the last rep or two of a set so that lactic acid will accumulate faster which will terminate the set prematurely. They do this because they don’t want to put out the extra effort or tolerate the pain associated with the extra three or four reps that they were really capable of performing.

BendtheBar 10-16-2009 11:48 PM

Base your training program on getting stronger

Let’s take a look at your training journal again. Was there any time throughout the last year that you got “goofy” and tried a “bomb and blitz”, “train for the pump” type of program? Or was it a program based on “positions of flexion?” Maybe you thought you could shock your muscles into new growth by using “instinctive” training where you change your exercises every workout depending on how you feel. You need to drop all this nonsense and make a commitment not to get “sucked into” trying anything that is not based on making you stronger. In order to gain as much muscle tissue as your body will allow you simply need to get progressively stronger. Getting bigger, has nothing to do with “the pump”, “positions of flexion”, or “shocking” the muscles. It has nothing to do with anything outside of simply getting stronger – period!

Get Your Out-of-the-Gym Factors in Order

Your training program simply sets the stage for changes in strength and size to take place. Another way to say this is that you don’t get stronger and bigger in the gym. The changes in your body take place when you’re not in the gym; they take place between workouts! If you want to reap all the benefits from every training session then you must commit to performing all out-of-the-gym responsibilities consistently. When you get these in order, you’ll be shocked at the positive effect they have on your results.

□ Eat right

This is the area where most trainees really drop the ball. It never ceases to amaze me how little a trainee who wants to get “as big as possible” eats. They think the training will do it all by itself and this couldn’t be further from the truth. So, I’m going to mention again – and I truly hope that you’re getting sick of hearing it from me – that you must know what is going on in your diet. And then take action; make the changes that are necessary to get results. Do you really know how many calories you get everyday? Or, are you just guessing. What about protein? Is it where it should be? Or, are you guessing again? These things matter – they matter a lot. If you really want to get big then work on getting up to 5000 calories per day – everyday. Then, I assure you that you will start getting big and strong (as long as your training stimulates gains). Take a few days and write down everything you eat and the time you eat. Then, get a calorie and macronutrient counter and figure out what is really going on. Read How to Eat to Get Big (from my book REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE) to get more detail. Once you determine your current caloric level make the effort to slowly increase it (if your goal is to gain maximum muscle mass)! You should gain a minimum of two pounds per month. When a trainee really wants to gain, he’ll put on one pound per week with no problem. Let me digress for a moment and address “really wants to gain”.

Recently I was consulting with a high school football player who has a desire (and the needed football talent) to play at the University of Michigan. If you are not aware, they are one of the top teams in the country every year. Under my tutelage this trainee has gone from 180 pounds as a high school freshman to his current 245 pounds as he just completed his junior year of football. As we discussed the need to further increase his strength and bodyweight to 270 pounds for his senior season, his father (who was in on the consult) made the comment “at the table he’s just too tired of eating, to eat anymore” – with the son agreeing to the comment. Well, to say the least this irritated me a little. My simple response was “so what – you either want it or you don’t”. “Don’t sit here and waste my time with the lofty goal of playing at Michigan if you don’t really want to do what is necessary to get there”. I could tell this young man got the point; he quit making excuses and started eating as he should.

My point is that if you really want to make this a great training year and really change your body you’ll do what is necessary -- if you won’t then you really don’t want it in the first place – so quit fooling yourself. It’s really beyond the scope of this article to go into great detail about proper nutrition to gain weight so I’ll hit the high points. When you find out that you are not eating enough – don’t try and cram down five or six 1000 calorie “feeds” immediately. All this will do is make you sick and all the calories will go down the toilet one way or another. To increase your caloric intake, first of all make sure that you are “feeding” every three hours. Just get in all your meals. Once you have mastered this then start increasing the size of each “feed”. Make sure that you are consuming good quality protein at every meal. Prepare, prepare, prepare. In order to make this work you must have the proper food available, so make sure you have it, and then prepare it, in advance. Again, for more detail read my article How to Eat to Get Big.

□ Do aerobic work!

I can’t make that sound any more demanding using the written word. Take a look at your training journal. Were you consistent in this area? Why not? Are you just plain lazy or don’t you believe in its benefits? I’m going to cut right to the bottom line on this one. If you truly want to get as big and strong as possible you must recover from your strength training from workout to workout. Aerobics help make this possible. They also aid with inter-set recovery; when you’re resting between sets, so that you’ll recover more completely before you hit the next set allowing you to lift more weight, or to make your target rep goal more easily. Aerobic work combined with some basic stretching is one of the best ways to prevent injury, which in turn will allow you to train consistently. Consistency in training is one of the most essential ingredients to reaching your strength and size potential. Aerobics will aid you in controlling bodyfat gain while on a high calorie eating program and will keep your heart and lungs in good shape which is critical for overall health. Aerobics will help you lose bodyfat if your goal is to reduce your bodyweight. No more excuses. Do your aerobic work this year and reap the benefits!

□ Commit to a stretching program

Did you do this? Did you do it with some effort or was it some heartless pantomime? Do you realize that some of those little aches and pains (and possibly the ones that aren’t so little anymore) would go away? Yes – they would go away. Stretching is simple and doesn’t require a lot of time. You don’t need to be spending more than eight to ten minutes before and after your workouts (both weight training and aerobic) to reap its tremendous benefits. Follow the basic stretching program in Complete Conditioning Part II (from my book REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE). Take your stretching seriously. If you are just 'shooting the bull' during this time then you are wasting time. You need to concentrate on the muscles that you are trying to stretch, and this will really help you to focus on the muscles that you are trying to work when you get to the lifting. If you haven’t been doing this, or haven’t been doing it properly, write it down and make it a priority.

□ Keep your motivation for training at a peak

You’ve got to have a definitive picture of what you want to accomplish this year. These goals must be clear, realistic, and most importantly they must be in front of your face (and hence your mind) as much as possible. If you skip this part of the checklist your achievements at the end of the year will be sub-par. You’ve probably heard of the road map analogy; you need a distinct destination and then you can choose the proper map and course to get you there. I can take this further by adding that you need to keep the destination in mind at all times, and have faith that you can get there. You need to utilize various “tools” that will not only remind you of what you’re trying to accomplish, but that will give you faith that it can be done. Yet, most trainees don’t do this, and that is one reason they end up off-course, and end up wasting time.

Decide what you want to accomplish right now, and here comes the most important part – write it down. When you write something down it becomes more “real” – you can see it – it materializes.

Make your goals precise; to simply write down that you want to get bigger and stronger doesn’t give you a specific destination. That’s like saying you want to get to the mid-west, when you really want to get to Indianapolis. If you currently weigh 150 pounds then write down “I will weigh 180 pounds”. Then get specific and write down actual girth goals of each muscle group if one of your goals is to increase specific muscle size. Write down “Legs – 25 inches”, “Arms – 16 inches” etc. Write down what you should be able to realistically achieve. Write down your strength goals in all the exercises that you’ll be performing. Make a list. “Squat 350 lbs for 5 reps; Bench 250lbs for one rep”. Do this for all exercises – not just the “big ones”. You need to paint a specific picture of what it is that you are working towards. Don’t look at this as some kind of chore. It should be fun. Dream a little -- just keep the dream realistic. If you really want to make this effective then write down your goals out to three years and five years.

To keep you on track of making these goals come true there are specific actions that you’ll need to take. Identify the areas that you need work on. You need to be honest with yourself – and if you keep a detailed training journal – it will show you where you need work. Go back through the checklist that I have presented in this article and then create your own checklist of specific actions that you need to take, and write it on note cards. You will make multiple copies of the “checklist” and put them up everywhere. Where is everywhere? You need a copy right beside your bed so that you can see it first thing in the morning and before you retire at night. You need a copy placed on your mirror in the bathroom so you can see it when you are brushing your teeth or shaving. You need one in your car. And you should have one at work. If you train in your own home gym make sure a copy is up there. This will keep you on track. I know you’re thinking that you don’t need to write anything down, that you’ll remember them anyway. If “remembering” what you need to do has done such a great job then how come you haven’t done your aerobic work consistently, how come you’ve jumped around from program to program, how come your diet stinks, and most of all how come you aren’t much different this year than last?

Here’s how to put together your “action list”. First, at the top of a card, write down your specific goals – your action list will follow. Let’s say that during last year you did a poor job on getting an ample supply of protein everyday. You would do a good job during the week and then the weekend would hit, and your diet would get lousy. It would take you till Tuesday or Wednesday to get it right again. This just won’t do – and you know it! So write down on your action list: Eat protein everyday! Remember you will not come through on this unless it is in front of your face everyday – throughout the day. That’s why you need to put your action list up in places that you’ll see throughout the day. Here’s another example.

Let’s say that last year you had a good streak of four months in which your training was progressing steadily. You added 20 pounds to your five rep set of benches training it once a week (shoulder pressing the other workout). “Good progress” you thought but just too slow. Then you read an article by a drug-using bench champion about a program that guaranteed a 50 pound gain on your bench in the next three months. So you went off and started following the guaranteed “big bench” program. It had you training you bench three times a week with many auxiliary exercises. To make a long story short you lasted about four weeks on the program till the tendonitis in your shoulder and elbows made you stop the program. It took you another four weeks of no upper body work and plenty of icing till you could start benching again. Three months later your bench was back up to where it was before you started the “druggies” program. In essence you wasted five months of training and came to realize that you weren’t just making “good progress” before but were making “great progress.” You also kick yourself in the butt knowing that in those five months your bench would have been up another 20 pounds. So, you get pissed off at yourself and swear that you’ll never do that again. Well, to make sure that you don’t do it again – write it down! Write: Don’t do stupid programs that sound too good to be true.

Here’s another example. Last year you did a good job packing on the weight. You gained 30 pounds but felt that too much was fat; you gained four inches at your waist. You also get “winded” walking the flight of stairs to your office. You know you didn’t put in the aerobic work that you should have. You’d do well for a week or two then would “blow it off again” for a couple of weeks. I can assure you that if you gained four inches on your waist with very inconsistent aerobic work you would have cut that to an inch or two with consistent aerobic training, and you sure as heck wouldn’t get “winded” climbing a set of stairs! Okay, write it down: Do your aerobic work Whale-boy! Notice how I worded that. Don’t just write down: Do aerobic work – it has no “punch” to it. Be outrageous. Make sure your goal sinks in. When you have had five or six months of great training, update the goals. You may simply want to add Training great – keep at it! Or maybe you’re still not eating consistently enough so add: Prepare more food “stick man”!

These examples give you an idea of how to set specific goals and to help you to hold yourself accountable. Once again, you must write it down. Do it!

To summarize

I’ve covered a lot of material in this article. Outside of the specifics that I’ve covered, there are four main areas that I want you to work on.

1. Determine specifically what you are going to achieve.

2. Stay focused on this goal.

3. Find the areas in your training as well as your conditioning and recovery processes that need work.

4. Find ways to hold yourself accountable.

When you accomplish these things, I’m confident your training this year will be the best it’s ever been. Train hard and train smart. Good luck.

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