||02-10-2011 01:17 PM
Glenn Pendlay, noted Olympic weightlifting coach, has a problem: His athletes are building too much muscle, too fast.
The weightlifters are growing right out of their weight classes... while losing body fat.
They're not training for hypertrophy, but they're gaining muscle much faster than people who are. People like you.
And they're doing it by not training like bodybuilders.
Do you feel sorry for Pendlay and his "problem?" We don't either. So when Christian Thibaudeau, Tim Patterson, and I called him, we didn't tell him we were sorry to hear about his little accidental hypertrophy issue. Nope, we interrogatedhim about it.
We wanted to know how his athletes were training. We wanted to hack his system and pass that info on to you. This is what we learned.
Testosterone Nation: Your athletes, whether they're Olympic lifters or football players getting ready for the NFL Combine, are known for putting on muscle very quickly. But you're not a hypertrophy coach per se.
Glenn Pendlay: I'm not a bodybuilding coach. I coach high-level athletes. For me, it's never been about how you look but about how much you lift or how fast you run or how high you jump. Still, I've often had trouble keeping an athlete down in his weight class.
Anybody can "bulk up." Eat a ton of food, drink a bunch of milk, do your major exercises like squats and bench presses and rows and deadlifts and military presses... it's just not that hard to gain 20 pounds with at least some of it being muscle. Most people that "can't" do it have simply not done the program correctly.
Of course, done that way you don't end up looking good naked. And you usually don't end up running faster, jumping higher, or having the ability to close the cushion in the first five yards off the line if you're a football receiver. What we do, the way we train, seems to increase lean body mass, decrease body fat, and definitely adds to your ability to run and jump and do athletic things.
If you're trying to get someone to be as good as they can be in the 94 kilo class – where 207 pounds is the most they can weigh – the object is to get them as strong as possible within that weight class. That means being very lean because the more body fat you have the less muscle you can carry and still be in the weight class. And it means making any muscle that is added very functional: muscle that adds to performance and not just to the bicep measurement.
T NATION: It's a little frustrating to hear that a lot of athletes build very muscular and lean bodies without ever "bodybuilding" in the traditional sense of the word. Train for performance, look like a bodybuilder, or at least a drug-free bodybuilder.
Pendlay: If you look at the physiques of a lot of the guys I coach, whether they're weightlifters or in the NFL, they're not professional bodybuilders, but they possess the physiques that would be looked at as ideal by nine out of ten people who don't want to use drugs. They just want to look good with their shirts off.
Look at the average running back in the NFL – he has a very muscular, very lean, functional physique. Most people will see that physique as more realistic. They don't want to do the drugs necessary to look like a pro-bodybuilder.
In fact, they'd preferto look like the running back rather than a pro-bodybuilder. Ninety-nine percent of people want to look like Jon North or T.J. Ward.
Last year when we did T.J.'s Combine prep, he gained 20 pounds of lean body mass. That guy looks scary without his shirt, just densely muscular and lean.
Methods & Metabolism
T NATION: Okay, let's get to it. How are these guys gaining muscle so quickly?
Pendlay: When weightlifters start doing a ton of extra workouts that are concentric-only, they have a problem: they grow out of their weight class. And that's with lean muscle, not fat.
We do very frequent training. We have a certain number of workouts per week that are very high intensity. We have only a couple of workouts per week that involve heavy eccentric loading, something like squatting.
We do very frequent, very high intensity, concentric loading. We do it for weightlifters, we do it for professional athletes, we do it for guys getting ready for the NFL Combine... we do it for everybody.
You get stronger and you gain lean body mass without gaining fat. You train like that, that often, then it's actually difficult to gain fat; your metabolism is going like a furnace.
T NATION: You've talked in our forums about how this is related to hormones. Can you elaborate?
Pendlay: The research I did getting my master's degree was all hormonal based. I'm always looking at how training influences the hormonal response, and, if you get it right, how hormonal response influences the results you get from training. That made a huge impact on how I've designed my training philosophy.
The whole-body type of workout, where you're doing big, stressful exercises, stimulates a powerful hormonal response. That's one of the reasons why people who aren't on drugs get the most benefits from a completely different training style than those who are on drugs.
Someone who's on drugs already has all the testosterone his system can handle. Someone who's not on drugs needs to train in a way that stimulates his body's production of hormones.
T NATION: That makes sense.
Pendlay: If you're a pro-bodybuilder who's taking the things that pro-bodybuilders take, then you don't have to train the same way or worry about the same things as your average 25-year old guy who wants to build muscle and isn't going to take drugs to do it. Those are two completely different systems of training.
What we're talking about is doing things that stimulate the whole body more. You're not doing isolation work; you're not coming in and doing curls and blasting your biceps once a week with 20 sets. Instead you're doing big exercises, leaning towards a whole-body workout.
Not everyone needs to do a whole-body workout, but they certainly don't need to do chest one day, biceps the next, etc. Whole-body workouts or upper/lower splits are the answer.
You're training more frequently, and as you get into better shape your goal is to start including "extra" workouts where you do very explosive, fast movements and, generally, concentric-only movements.
T NATION: What does your upper/lower split look like?
Pendlay: My favorite split is squatting and pressing on Monday and Thursday. Then, on Tuesday and Saturday, we pull. That includes variations of the snatch and clean, as well as pull-ups and rows.
T NATION: How often are your athletes training?
Pendlay: My best athletes are in the gym twice a day, every day, and every single workout they're working their hips, their backs, and their legs.
Regular people may not be able to always do that, but that's the ultimate expression of what I'm talking about. What the regular guy can do is build towards that. He can look at what these athletes do and copy it to the best of his ability in the time that he has in the