Iron Addict Appreciation Thread
Iron Addict, aka Wesley Silveira.
Here is something I hear pretty commonly from new training clients. It goes along the lines of:
I want to run 3-5 days a week for 3-7 miles--I like to run.
I also want to do MMA (you can substitute basketball, baseball, soccer, mountain biking, whatever) 3-5 times a week.
I want to get as big and strong as possible as fast as possible.
I want to get and stay as lean as possible.
DAMN, you can't do that all at once--as simple as that. I never try and persuade someone to give up their sports. Lots of lifters use the weights to help their sport performance. And I do encourage all my clients do to both low intensity and high intensity (usually HIIT) cardio. But running 5 miles 3 times a week is a different thing altogether.
You need to figure out what you want most and make that your primary focus and other interests secondary. If a guy wants to do MMA 5 days a week he simply isn't going to be as massive as possible as if he just weight trained and did a reasonable amount of cardio. If a guy wants to run 5-7 miles 3-5 days a week he is likely going to find a very rough road ahead if he is trying to accrue muscle mass at a fast pace--running and mass accrual are NOT complimentary.
In other words, figure out what is most important to you and work on that with the understanding that your other interests and goals will be secondary. You can do MMA multiple days a week and gain size and strength. You will not however gain at anything near an optimal pace if your fight training is vigorous. If you want high endurance, by all means go for it with the understanding that you will be compromising your ability to gain size and strength at a fast pace. If you want to gain muscle at a fast pace 5 or so low intensity cardio days and 2-3 20 minute HIIT sessions is about the max for most lifters tolerate well in my experience.
You can gain muscle well at 10-12% bodyfat--you cannot in most cases do so at 6-8%
While you certainly can try and do it all at once, you will soon find that everything suffers with this approach.
I am very often frustrated trying to inform people that their goals are not realistic and compatible. What goals am I talking about? The guys that are 10% bodyfat and want to build muscle and get a LOT leaner. From experience with countless lifters, the average guy, with average genetics can build muscle at a good pace at 10-14% bodyfat. The average lifter does poorly at adding muscle at an appreciable rate when at 6-8%--but that is exactly what soooo many guys want to/are attempting to do.
I get a constant influx of guys that are truly about 10% bodyfat and they see themselves as fat because they don't have rippling abs. Most of these guys won't have abs at 6% either because despite what MYTHS you may have heard that EVERYBODY has abs under the fat--it is simply not the case that everyone has DEVELOPED abs that will show well even at very low bodyfat percentages.
Most of these guys do not have any appreciable muscle or strength, yet they have an illusion of being able to muscle up fast while staying at 8% year round--this will simply NOT happen for most guys. If you are not willing to spend some time at 10-14% (10-12 really for most guys) you are going to find some very slow going. Do you really want to work a year to gain 3-4 lbs of muscle when you could have gained 10-15 (or more for beginners) by allowing yourself to be a little smoother?
It is "generally" easier for a shorter guy to fill out the muscle bellies than a tall lanky guy. Want some extreme examples? Here is the 2008 Olympia line-up. These stats are pre-Olympia and do not necessarily compare to where everyone came in.
Melvin Anthony 5'8 240
Gustavo Badell 5'8 245
Jay Cutler 5'9 267
Moe Moussawl 5'9 235
Kevin English 5'5 202
Toney Freeman 6'2 286
Phil Heath 5'9 230
David Henry 5'5 207
Dexter Jackson 5'7 230
Johnny Jackson 5'8 240
Craig Richardson 5'7 215
Ronnie Rockel 5'6 225
Silvio Samuel 5'7 220
Sergey Shelestov 5'11 270
Branch Warren 5'7 245
Dennis Wolf 5'11 267
See all the six foot plus guys in there? Oh yeah exactly one. See a lineup of guys mostly 5'5-5'10? Yup.
The most important factor for growing is changing your routine up when, or before the body adapts. No, that’s not it, because if the volume and frequency isn’t right, it won’t work in the first place.
OK, the most important factor for growth is having a routine with a volume and frequency level that YOU can recover from. Not the level some pro does, or your friend does, but the amount of work YOU can recover and grow on. No, that’s not the most important part either, because if you don’t have enough protein you won’t grow.
OK, the most important factor for growth is assuring you get enough protein EVERY day to grow. I can’t say how much that is, but can say with all certainty that if you are getting less then 1.5 grams of protein per lb of bodyweight (assuming you are at least FAIRLY lean) it is NOT ENOUGH. And most everyone will do better consuming more than this. No, wait a minute, if all you are getting is enough protein and over all Kcals and carbs/fats are too low, you still won’t grow.
I’ll try again. The most important factor for growth is ensuring that you are getting enough protein to grow (at LEAST 1.5 grams per lb BW) and getting enough overall kcals to fuel the growth process. Dammit! But without the proper micro-nutrients (vitamins/minerals) nothing will happen either.
OK, once again, the most important thing to the growth process is having a routine that works for YOU, that is changed when the body adapts, consuming enough protein and overall kcals to grow, along with the proper micronutrients.
Damn! Forgot about sleep, bad sleep habits will WREAK your gains. No sleep, no-grow. Gotta sleep good.
OOOPS! Stress--yup, too much stress and you can simply kiss gains good-bye. This is one of the most unappreciated and least understood things by the general populace of weight trainees and dieters. Simply put, too much stress and your body will not gain appreciable muscle and fat loss will be extremely dampened.
And supps, yes, supps. Trying to get the proper micro-nutrients from whole food just isn’t going to happen, and if you think you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from just whole food, you are sadly mistaken. You don’t need a huge cupboard filled with supps, but things like fish oil and vitamins/minerals HAVE TO BE PART of your daily intake if you want it to happen.
OK, once again, the most important thing to the growth process, is having a routine that works for YOU, that is changed when the body adapts, consuming enough protein and overall kcals to grow, along with the proper micro-nutrients/supplementation, and enough sleep, and not too much stress to let it occur
OK, that is better. As you can see it is ALL the most important thing, and if any pieces of the puzzle are left out, you will NOT get the results you are after. So many guys put some of it together and just can’t understand why they don’t grow. It’s all or nothing here!
As many of you know, I train 80+ people at any given time. Training that many people from all walks of life from guys and girls that just want to drop a few pounds of fat and gain a few lbs of muscle, to competitive bodybuilders and powerlifters gives one a LOT of feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Here are some of the methods I have implemented over the last few years for most clients that have resulted in BIG changes in results and client satisfaction.
I went from just having clients taking a week off when needed to deloading them (usually cutting volume drastically, keeping intensity high) on pre-defined periods and results went up across the board dramatically.
Non-fasted morning cardio
For all the guys trying to stay lean when bulking, or cutting, I went from fasted cardio, to the simple addition of some BCAA’s or whey prior to their cardio. Fat loss still occurred at about the same pace, muscle retention/accrual went up big time. This is no doubt because at this time of the day cortisol is normally highest and food intake tends to blunt this effect making for a much better testosterone/cortisol ratio.
Opposite Training Methods
If I get a client that comes to me after doing a lot of volume, I usually put him on a lower volume strength routine—BAM nice increases. If I get a guy that comes to me already strong and doing low volume strength work (and their goal is size) I use volume. Contrasting these methods back and forth work wonders for a LOT of advanced lifters. If a guy is small and weak they just need to be doing strength training irregardless of their goals IMO.
Most BB’ers ovoid conditioning work like the plague. BIG mistake. My goal here is not elite conditioning levels, just a solid base and once established they are in a much better to make fast size and strength gains. And in this context, I am only looking for 20 minutes HIIT twice a week as a base level. More can be done if the clients recovery levels and motivational levels doing so will be productive.
BCAA’s at relatively high doses do wonders for most lifters and the more advanced, the better the cost to benefit ratio. The research as well as anecdotal evidence is everywhere so I won’t go into it here other than to say that in my experience with a LOT of lifters it is overwhelmingly posistive.
Hardgainers and Volume Work
Hardgainers have been so conditioned by the current thinking on how to train hardgainers they often end up totally inside the box thinkers about this. Volume can be done and is often extremely effective under the following conditions:
They are not EXTREME hardaginers—and yes, these people exist.
The volume used is about 8-12 sets a bodypart, no higher, with 9 being a sweet spot for many.
Intensity is regulated—NO FAILURE TRAINING ALLOWED.
They deload every 3-4 weeks and/or switch to lower volume work.
In fairly high doses (10-40 grams total oil, not epa/dha) it helps with fat loss, preserves muscle when dieting, seems to help gain muscle (small degree here) when massing. And is simply one of the best things you can do from a health standpoint. A MUST take supplement IMO.
Effective Non-Stimulatory Fat Loss Supplements
TTA, Forskolin, and Avant Labs Sesathin has made my job a lot easier when working with clients that need to lose bodyfat. Because they are non-stimulatory compliance is better. Epinephrine and nor-adrenaline levels are not effected, and crashing when coming off is not a factor. Fat loss is accelerated a good amount for most trainees and this makes diet times shorter and clients happier.
Just a few things off the top of my head that have helped a lot of clients level of satisfaction.
Is your training working?
First, let me start this thread with a statement I am going to close it with:
There is no need to wait more than a few weeks to make the determination if a routine is working or not, if it didn’t work for the first month, it’s not going to magically start working next month.
I have read 4-5 posts on various boards over the last week alone from people that stated that over the last six months in one case, and as long as 13 months in the most extreme case they have gained NOTHING! No additional weight on the bar, and no additional body mass. And the sad part is, a LOT of lifters are in the same boat. They read pages upon pages of info about how to get big and strong, and for all their knowledge (mostly useless) and efforts, they are not even moving slowly towards their goals. Before I go on, I will define the audience I am talking to/about. This is directed at beginner and intermediate level lifters that are not already quite big and strong—you know, most of the people on these forums trying to make big changes in their physiques.
At this level there is absolutely no reason to not be making steady progress towards your goals. Your initial barometer of success needs to be ever increasing amounts of iron on the bar. You can do all the “pump sets” you like, but as long as you are lifting girl weights, you’re gonna have a girl body. Bodyweight gains are a harder thing to gauge as LEAN muscle gains do not occur extremely fast unless you are a rank beginner, or using growth enhancing drugs. Getting on the scale and trying to see it go up 2 lbs each week USUALLY just means you are getting fat, so first worry about making the bar heavier, then worry about if the muscle is coming on fast enough. And guess what? It is a pretty simple thing! If you are CONSISTENTLY getting stronger over the long term (not the I gained 10 lbs on my bench how come my pecs aren’t bigger now type) you should be slowly gaining weight. And if you are not, you simply are not eating enough. People, think this one through. IF you are eating enough to gain mass you will either be gaining muscle, or gaining bodyfat, but if NEITHER of these two are occuring, you simply are not eating enough.
If you are gaining fat instead of muscle, AND your lifts are going up on a consistent basis you are either too high over maintenance or have the macro-nutrient ratios screwed up, and as a starter, if you are not getting at LEAST 1.5 grams of protein per lb of bodyweight (for guys that are 7-18% bodyfat) you might as well stay home.
Now that diet has been addressed (but surely not covered in detail) lets talk about training. Simply put most of you fail because you attempt routines WAY outside your current capacity. Beginners always want to do intermediate routines and intermediate advanced, or extremely advanced routines. At your stage of the game all you need is a routine that hits all the bodytparts with the big compound lifts and not much else. You need to squat, deadlift, bench press or dip (or both), row or chin (or both) military press, and do some curls, not exclusively, but as cornerstones of your routine. There is nothing wrong with doing a couple of lifts per bodypart, but unless you are moving some OK poundage’s (and 200 lb benches and 300 lb squats are NOT OK poundage’s) there is simply NO REASON TO DO MORE. Use as much frequency as you can and still make consistent gains. You have ZERO reason to worry about imbalances because in most cases the beginner lifter has one major imbalance, they don’t have enough strength on the big lifts and muscle on their frame.
If you are not getting stronger on a consistent basis when at beginner and intermediate level in almost all cases the lifter is either doing way too much workload as far as volume, or frequency or both, or is the shmuck that trains bench and biceps 3 times a week and wonders why he’s not “swole”.
You don’t need the latest “flashy” trendy routine to “buff” you in 8 weeks. You need a sold STRENGTH BASED routine that you can consistently add weight to the bar using. And this means consistently, but perhaps not every time. And the reason I say that is you should periodize your routine whether that consists of programmed unloaded weeks, or added deload or cruise weeks periodically. And another reason I state that is I KNOW for a fact that LOTS of you guys use a routine until you have ONE bad workout, assume the worst and change your entire routine (usually to the latest thing on a lifting forum or muscle mag) and start the process anew.
It really is this simple, unless your weights are going up on a CONSISTENT basis your training or diet or both are screwed up. There is no need to wait more than a few weeks to make the determination if a routine is working or not, if it didn’t work for the first month, it damn sure isn’t going to work the next month (excluding SOME types of advanced loading YOU don’t need to be using in the first place). First look at diet, then training and if those are good, look at sleep and stress, but that is a topic for another day.
I am going into this discussion with the assumption that the trainee has diet, supplementation, sleep, and stress in order. If not, the perfect routine is not going to be effective anyway. Many people go to the gym each week employing workout programs that look flashy on paper, but fail to deliver results. Why? Simply because the volume is not matched correctly to the intensity, and/or the frequency is not matched to the overall loading.
Why do so many lifters have a mis-match? More often than not it’s because they are trying to do something outside their current ability of recovery/work capacity. An important point to keep in mind is that the loading must be in tune with the lifters CURRENT state of experience. Most beginners want to do advanced routines and almost all intermediates DO advanced and highly advanced routines long before they are ready for them. Before going on I want to take a moment to lay out what I believe is important with overall loading schemes.
1. Volume should be as high as possible while STILL PROVIDING FAST STRENGTH INCREASES. This rule can be thrown out the window by extremely advanced lifters that already are very big and strong and want to do volume work purely for size. As a general rule, the higher the volume goes, to an extent, the slower strength gains accrue. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it applies to the vast majority in my experience. Don’t mis-read that as “Iron Addict likes high volume training”. I like it as high as can be done while still making fast strength gains, and for many lifters, that will be quite low volume.
2. Intensity should be matched to the volume. The more sets you do, the lower the intensity will be if you are to be successful. High volume and high intensity are mutually exclusive. No one with a functioning brain does 20 sets a bodypart to failure. If you use to failure, and beyond failure techniques, your volume will be low by necessity. Most to failure systems use one or two work sets per lift to failure, and few lifts (often one) per bodypart. Many lifters take a large number of sets to failure each workout and frankly, they are usually guys with great genetics, or lifters that are not making much progress and frustrated.
3. Frequency should be as often as possible WHILE STILL RECOVERING AND MAKING SOLID PROGRESS ON STRENGTH AND SIZE GAINS. Obviously the more often you can train/recover/grow and train again, the faster you will reach your goal. That said, training at a rate that rarely or never allows progress is fools work, and many of you are simply fools.
How to match these three up in a format that results in consistent progress is a constant source of frustration to many lifters. While there are no hard and fast rules owing to the wide disparity of genetics and experience, levels here are some guidelines to help you make the right choices when programming your training. And please keep that last statement in mind. Designing workout programs should have “programming in mind”. Most people just do “routines” with no thought of what comes next.
I will address intensity first since it is the simplest aspect of the three in program design. While it is a very simple classification and doesn’t cover all levels of intensity, I will go out on a limb and lay down the four basic categories used by the majority of lifters on their WORK sets.
1. Multiple reps short of failure. This is done most frequently with ramped loading (predetermined often) routines, and with medium-high volume loading. A couple examples are the first few sets of a lift of a trainee that is doing 16-20 sets a bodypart. The first few sets are USUALLY a few reps short of failure and either the weight is increases, or the same weight is used and as more sets are done fatigue sets in and increases the difficulty level. This is also done with lower volume routines where the weight is static for all sets. Such as doing 4 x 8 with the same weight. The first two sets are easy, the third hard, the last, almost all-out. 10 x 10’s are done with very sub-maximal weights and again fatigue over the course of many sets is the goal
5 x 5’s are done with sub-maximal weights in most cases. An example of a 300 lb bencher might look like:
300 the following week the sub-maximal weights go up, as do the last top set.
2. One rep short of failure. This is a very productive way to train that is still plenty intense, but doesn’t include the CNS fatigue most often accrued when doing sets to failure. It is often done in conjunction with sets done at lower intensity (multiple reps short of failure) and then the last work set is done one rep short of failure. In other words, you lift until you know that if you attempted the last rep it wouldn’t go. That is how I structure the majority of my routines and it allows a lot more tonnage and workload without too much CNS fatigue.
3. To failure training. This is where your work sets are taken to the point of absolute failure where try as you might, you cannot complete another rep and don’t quit until you have attempted the impossible—getting the weight up. This is a popular way to train and can be effective. The downsides are that it allows very little workload/tonnage to be completed. The can be both a blessing and a curse. The good side is since volume is so low many people recover very well and strength gains are consistent. The down sides are that many people’s CNS just do not tolerate it well and CNS is dampened a LOT unless frequency is very infrequent. Also since the tonnage is so low, SOME people do not build as much size as if the volume were higher.
4. Beyond failure training. This is where after a point of failure has been reached more work is done. Examples are forced reps where your training partner gives you JUST enough help to allow you to complete more reps after failure has been reached, rest-pause, and drop sets. Advantages are extremely compressed workload, usually one set a bodypart, very good growth stimulation with increased tonnage compared to the single set to failure method. Downsides are that it is EXTREMELY taxing on CNS.
That was a brief GENERALITY of how sets are typically performed but certainly doesn’t cover it all. What do I prefer? A combination of methods one and two. Doing a few sub-maximal sets, then, one-two sets taken to one short of failure. This allows more workload without excessive CNS fatigue, but still has enough intensity. I USED to use a LOT of to failure training and beyond failure training with both myself and training clients, but after slowly making the switch to the method just mentioned results have been MUCH better by a huge margin. And this isn’t just a small sampling; I work with about 70 clients at a time. As a side note, I don’t consider accidentally “missing” a very low rep attempt failure, as in 1 to 3 rep sets of max-effort work a per prescribed by WSB.
If you want to use to failure/beyond techniques I would recommend a “hardgainer” style routine with very few lifts, two-three days a week in the gym, and once a week per body-part if you are a beginner-intermediate level lifter. If you are ADVANCED use Dante’s (DC/Doggcrap) system. It is extremely well thought out, scalable to your needs, and takes into account many of the shortcomings of other high intensity systems and works EXTREMELY well—GREAT SYSTEM.
The workload needs to match your CURRENT experience level and work capacity. For beginners with less than 1-2 years experience, OR those that have always done everything wrong and are still at beginner strength levels after many years of training the volume should be relatively low. There are two primary schools of thought usually promoted. One line of thinking is that the beginner simply cannot generate enough intensity to do much damage so a mid volume, high frequency routine is the way to go. This usually translates into a full body 3 times a week routine. This can work extremely well. But……if it doesn’t, don’t keep doing something that doesn’t work.
Beginners usually have pretty horrible work capacity and full body 3 times a week beats the hell out of guys and girls that are totally out of shape and have poor CNS recovery. The other school of thought is that beginner’s need very little workload to grow well, and I am of this school of thought. I would rather start a beginner low and add workload as they progress. There is the old saying that “anything works for beginners” and that is only true to a point. Put a beginner on Arnolds advanced volume routine and many will get smaller and weaker every week. So….I believe starting low and working up over time accomplishes a couple very important things. It gets the trainee acclimated to lifting without beating them up so bad they quit, and allows consistent progress. And please keep in mind that at the beginner level strength gains should be pretty damn linear. If you are not getting stronger pretty much every week at this stage of the game you are doing something incredibly wrong.
Intermediates can get by with any amount of workload their bodies can handle and still recover from. At this stage, it often gets easy to lose sight of the fact that strength gains are still paramount. What generally happens is the lifter has made some good progress and has built up a good amount of strength. He is feeling good about himself, but knows he still isn’t near big enough. Scanning the muscle mags and lifting forums he looks at the stuff the pro’s and other BIG-BOYS are doing and decides that is the answer. He switches to very high volume and often high frequency and BAM! He makes a good jump is size! Then…..since he doesn’t understand that the gains he got were mostly from Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy which occurs from an increase in the non-contractile cellular fluid in the muscle he thinks he has his long term training needs covered.
But….the sarcoplasma consists of nutrients, glycogen, capillaries, and mitochondria proliferation. It ISN’T contractile protein and to make contractile protein go up the rep ranges should probably be lower than what our hero is using, and with the workload having so much overall tonnage strength gains come VERY S-L-O-W-L-Y. Since strength isn’t going up what will he have to do to progress? Well more volume of course. But since he is already doing 16 sets a bodypart what next? 24? 30? Make sense? What the intermediate level needs is something that provides a balance of strength with enough volume/tonnage for better hypertrophy work than training purely for strength. This usually equates to a mid-volume routine with at least some of the work in the 1-6 rep range and higher reps for other lifts in the program.
Advanced lifters? At this stage of the game pretty much anything goes and if you are TRULY advanced you know better than anyone what works best for you or you wouldn’t have got this far. No need to make generalizations at this point.
As far as frequency is concerned, again what you want is as frequent as possible while still allowing fast progress. The variables here can be put in a lot of various sequences, but they still don’t vary too much. Again, here are more generalities that will cover a lot of ground, but will still be far from including every option are:
1. VERY low frequency, as in Mike Mentzer, John Little, Pete Sisco’s recommendations. These range as low as taking three-four weeks to hit all bodyparts. WAY too low IMO
2. Once every 9-12 days. These formats can work very well for extreme hardgainers, and even easy gainers as a de-load.
3. Once a week.
4. Once every 5 days. A favorite of mine, and something Charles Poliquin has recommended a lot.
5. Twice a week.
6. Three times a week.
7. Schedules that have multiple frequency ranges dependent on the bodypart being trained based on recovery, or need to specialize.
My preference for MOST trainees that have at least average recovery is once every 5 days setup on an upper/lower split that rotates. In other words:
If the trainee can recover from it, I put them on a 4 day a week program hitting everything 2 x a week.
Hardgainers, both real and functional are usually put on a once a week per bodypart routine until we can get their metabolic issues addresses and work on getting their work capacity up.
Advanced lifters can be put on anything under the sun they can recover from including waved volume, Rest-Pause, High volume strength based templates too, well, you get the idea, anything can go at that stage as long as it is still within their ability to tolerate the workload and suited to their goals.
A brief discussion about easy-gainers, average lifters, and hardgainers/extreme hardgainers is in order. I have had 250 lb fairly lean lifters with 19 inch arms after two and a half years training tell me they were hardgainers. Why? Because their shoulders didn’t grow fast, or their lats weren’t thick enough—BULLSHIT, these guys got it going on, and frankly, everyone likes to believe that their dedication was the prime reason for their success. Yes, it is a HUGE factor, but plenty of guys give their all 24/7 and just don’t get there that fast, or even at all.
Easy gainers are simple and a pleasure to work with. Provided they are consistent with diet and training they grow very well and results are very brisk compared to most lifters results.
Most lifters fall in the average range of bodybuilding/powerlifting potential. An educated guess is that 60-65% of the lifters have about average predisposition for lifting
A large percentage of the “hardgainers” are only hardgainers because they do so much wrong (a full length article to follow). And many are truly hardgainers due to genetics and metabolic disorders. These guys MUST approach their training different.
There are no hard and fast rules that determine who is and isn’t in which category. After doing this for over ten years I can usually make a very accurate estimate after reading a questionnaire and asking a few questions.
Hope that made sense, and makes it a bit easier when deciding what to do next in your pursuit of the physique and strength levels you dream of.
Stay tuned for the next installment!
Great stuff here. IA was a smart guy and always willing to share his knowledge.
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