Thursday, October 20, 2016

Circuit Training in Hell

Q: What kind of regimen would you recommend for daily 20 minute workout sessions?  


My Answer: Depends on what you want to achieve with your workouts.  Fat loss or muscle building?  How about both?  If so, then do a 20 minute circuit:

  1. Pull-ups
  2. Front squats
  3. Military press
  4. Romanian deadlifts
  5. Inverted rows
  6. Hanging leg raises
  7. Push-ups

The above circuit can be done inside a power rack.  Cycle through the circuit as many times as you can within a 20 minute period.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Strength and Physique Q&A

Q: "Hello my name is J. L., and I read an article with your name and your skills. I have a question: I was a police officer in PA, and I was released from the department, because I failed my 1.5 mile run. I am a stocky guy and running was never my favorite thing to do. Now I am going for another department, and of course I have to run.

"Do you have any advice on what I can do to improve my run? I'm currently running a 9 minute and 30 second mile. And I have to run a 12 minute 1.5 mile. I run every other day and do strength training, and I am getting no where to achieve my running goal."


My Answer: I'm not the running expert. My fortes lie in strength training and in bodybuilding. If you're stocky, however, then you should really focus on losing some weight and dieting. Go on a vegetarian diet. If you have the discipline, then go on a vegan diet. Lose the weight training and just focus on running.

I know this runs counter to my usual training and diet advice, but most people ask me about how to gain muscle. Your focus should be fat loss to better your running time and vegetarianism to improve your cardiovascular health.

Q: "I was reading your article on workouts for police, and it looks like something I want to try. I have two questions though: The workout you show has weeks 1 and 2, and weeks 4 and 5. What do we do for week 3?

"My second question is, will this help strengthen my hips at all? I was recently told I'm getting some bone loss in my hips and was told exercise would be the way to help it."

Thanks for the help!
-Ed B.

My Answer: That was a typo, so go from week 2 into week 4. With regards to strengthening your bones, strength training will help alleviate bone loss over time. However, if you're asking that particular question, then chances are you haven't been strength training very much at all.

If that's the case, then don't start with the Return to Copland workout. This workout is brutal, and beginners and people who workout intermittently should not start off with this program. Choose a simple program first, like by 5x5, and transition to more and more complex programs over time. THEN start the Return to Copland workout.

Q: "With the books you have out on Amazon, which one of them would you recommend first [given my back condition]? With my birthday being in September, I can tell a friend of mine to give me a gift credit from Amazon. Which one [of your books] do you think will benefit me the most right now? I am sure I will get the others also but not very soon."

Thanks again,

My Answer: Well given your ataxia, I would say none of my books are appropriate for you. I know it seems a little weird for me to tell you NOT to buy my books, but the fact is, I wrote these books for hardcore bodybuilders. I didn't write them for the general public. The books are not about physical rehabilitation.

As an independent trainer, I am very frank and candid with people, because that is what a consultant does: tell it like it is. It should not be solely about money, contracts, sales or ego.

So I have to tell you that my books are too advanced for your condition. However, I'm sure you're more interested in my books not for rehab, but because you want to sculpt the ultimate physique. In this regard, you will find a lot useful information, but it is up to you to make sure you're training safely. For you, I would not recommend SPV2: Neo-Classical Bodybuilding, because the programs are very grueling and are meant for advanced bodybuilders. SPV1: The Articles and SPV3: Tactics and Strategies would be worth your investment, because both books have chapters on postural realignment and maintenance as well as physique enhancement.

Q: I have a question for you: I am a large guy (about 320), and I started working out. When I do sit-ups, my lower back really hurts. It doesn't matter if I do crunches or full sit-ups?

-Matthew V.

My Answer: If you're using every other muscle BUT your abs, then yes, it would be normal for you to have lower back pain. But at 320, ditch the ab work. You won't get a six-pack or reduce the size of your waist by doing sit-ups or crunches. Work on losing fat throughout your body overall by working out your whole body, not just your abs. This means predominantly whole body movements. A good primer on using whole body movements to generate whole body fat loss is my article Strength Training for Fat Loss.

Once you generate total body fat loss, THEN you can work on your abs.

Q: "First of all, I would like to compliment you on the Shotgun Method article! I plan to apply for the position of a police officer, and I'm having trouble finding a training regimen that incorporates: v-taper, cardio, size, and strength. If you could find time out of your day to email me your take or a training regimen, that would be awesome."

Shawn H.

My Answer: Glad you like the article, Shawn. The Shotgun Method is an excellent template on which you can design a strength program to address all your issues: size and strength exercises on shotgun days, v-taper exercises on troubleshooting days. Do some sprint intervals for cardio. But if you haven't checked it out already, then read my Strength Training for the Professional Warrior article. It addresses all of the issues you mentioned. Keep in mind, though, that police academies don't give a rat's ass about your V-taper or your size and strength.

Q: "Hello coach, I'm a fan of your blog, and I have the same 'thinking' about working out, etc. The Shotgun Method is one I really enjoyed, but since I'm in a fat loss mode, I did a few changes last week. It was a lot of volume, but I'm wondering what you think of that split? I mixed the shotgun with your Warrior Workout for fat loss:

Monday = Warrior Workout
Tuesday = Shotgun
Wednesday = Warrior Workout
Thursday = off
Friday = Warrior Workout
Saturday = Shotgun
Sunday = off

"Don't know if it's crazy, but on the scale I lost 3 pounds. Thanks and keep up the good work!"

Danny, the Rampage

My Answer: Well, Rampage, I'm not fond of blending 2 different training programs. The reason is that if the training programs have different goals, then your body gets confused and you do a crappy job at accomplishing those multiple goals. But if what you're doing works for you, then stay with it for no longer than 3 weeks and then back off.

Besides, the Shotgun Method is already a blending of 2 different training programs: one focused on bulking (Shotgun) and one focused on symmetry (Troubleshooting). Since the Professional Warrior workout addresses multiple training goals for law enforcement, it also is a blending of different training programs.

Q: "Love your blog! Quick question:

"I am currently doing a 5x5, 4 times a week routine per your site, and recently got sick and have been backtracked this week. Normally train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and this week I got a slight cold on Sunday, and haven't been able to go to the gym.

"Thankfully today Wednesday I am feeling a lot better, but I am already behind for my routine for the week. My question is, what is a good quick training routine you would recommend to someone in my situation? Say once or twice this week, in order to basically maintain strength, or not lose their progress in the gym?

"I'll probably adjust weights for next week depending on how I feel, but it would be great to stay at the level I was, or not lose much progress from this backtrack. Thanks for addressing my question, and thanks for the great information!"

Jenaro J.

My Answer: It's a tricky thing when you get sick, but when you've recovered, just resume your program from where you left off. Since you coming off a mini-layoff, however, I suggest you cut the volume down to half and not train to failure. Jumping right back into the program full force would be too much of a shock for your system.

In other words, if you're doing 5x5, then you should bring it down to 3 sets of 5 reps wiyou can do 6-8 reps with. Next week when you feel better, resume the 5x5 program.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Hypertrophy Training for the Ectomorph

Q: "I have been doing the pyramid workout for a bit now. I haven't been doing the 10-8-6-15 the whole time. I have been doing it for a month or so now, but I have been changing it up from 10-8-6-8 to 10-8-6-6, which I am currently doing.

"I have been trying to go for about 3200 calories a day. I have gained some weight but not a lot. I look a bit more defined, but not a lot also. Also I have been switching up the exercises every two weeks or so but keep some core ones.

"My question is should I continue to do this till I put on some more weight? I went from 132 to 137, till I get to about 140 or so. Or should I change it now? I'm not sure about the 5x5, because I can't find anything about it or what exercises to do. Should I try something like:

Monday - Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps, Abs
Wednesday - Legs, Back, Abs
Friday- Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps, Abs
Next Monday - Legs, Backs, Abs

-N. Ponte

My Answer: Yes, change the program. 5x5 is fine. It's simple: just plug in the exercises you want to do for each body part. But if you want every detail spelled out for you, then just follow the 5x5 program I have outlined in the 3-5 Power Periodization Program.

Q: I am a 30 year old ectomorph trying to gain weight (muscle). Your book (good read) contains the article on lifting for ectomorphs. I have tried every workout under the sun and have gained some muscle but not a ton. I have been lifting for about 10 years and would say I am definitely an intermediate if not advanced weight lifter. If doing the ‘lifting for ectomorphs’ routine first, when is the right time to go to the main workout in your book (T-Boost, etc)? When is the right time to say the ectomorph routine is not working? 

Thanks for your time.

My Answer: The right time to transition from the 10-8-6-15 program to the SPV2 program is when you are no longer making any gains in size and strength. Be warned: switching from the 10-8-6-15 program to the SPV2 program is like switching from a tricycle to a Ninja motorcycle: you better hang on, because you're in for one hell of a ride. Most people don't push themselves in training. The SPV2 program will push you to your limits.

Q: "Thanks for the workout on for LEO's. Are the first 2 weeks a 4 day workout? You listed 4 workouts: should they be rotated on a daily basis?"


My Answer: Yep, you rotate through all 4 workouts throughout the week.

Q: "My name is Henry, and I am your classic hardgainer. I've been following the 10-8-6-15 routine, and it is finally time for a new one. I've been reading on your site about the 5x5 routine with a two day split, and it looks like what I need, but can you elaborate on that training regimen, say providing a sample week? Your articles are great as always James and any help at all is appreciated, Thanks!"

My Answer: The 5x5 program is pretty straightforward, Jacob. Plug in your exercises to these parameters: 5 sets of 5 reps with 90 seconds of rest between sets. Choose one exercise per body part. Follow a 2 day split, hitting each muscle group twice a week.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Top 5 Free Weight Exercises for the Hamstrings

Q: What are other good exercises for the hamstring other than deadlift? I have a home gym but I don’t have a lying leg raise machine. Thanks.

My Answer: In the hamstring chapter of High Tension Exercises for Muscular Growth, I list out the best hamstring builders.  They are categorized as either leg curl variations or deadlift variations.  So if you don’t have access to leg curl machines, then concentrate on the deadlift variations.  You can build some rather thick bundles of steel just from the following exercises:

Barbell Romanian deadlift

Single leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift

Deficit Romanian deadlift

Good mornings

Floor glute ham raise

The floor glute ham raise is a body weight exercise that resembles the leg curl, but it is extremely tough to do.  It requires that you have a training partner to hold your legs down, or you can secure your ankles underneath a heavy piece of equipment.  You’ll slowly lower your torso under control.  When your body reaches the floor, push off in an explosive manner and do another rep.  You may only do 1-3 reps.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Training for the SWAT Pull-up Test

Q: I’m going to be applying for our department’s SWAT team.  Part of the physical test is a 2 mile run and pull-up test.  You got to do at least 2 pull-ups with 50 extra pounds.  Problem is I can’t even do a pull-up with just my body weight.  Sad, I know.   Any way I can train to do a pull-up?

My Answer: If you are having problems doing pull-ups, then here’s how you should progress:

  1. Do you need to lose weight?  Obviously if you are overweight, then that makes it harder for you to do pull-ups.  So if you’re overweight, then embark on a fat loss program.
  2. If you can’t do any pull-ups, then you will need to do negative pull-ups to build up your strength: 
  3. Once you are able to do a pull-up,  then you’ll need to do high frequency training to increase your pull-up endurance.  Set up a pull-up bar at home and one at the office.  Every time you pass by the bar you do a pull-up or two.  Don’t go beyond 5 reps, just do a few reps each time you come to the bar.  Essentially you’re practicing the skill of pull-ups as frequently as possible.
  4. Once every 2 weeks test out your pull-up max.  See how many pull-ups you can do in a single set. Once you can do more than 10 pull-ups, then start adding a little bit of weight.  Add more and more weight over time till you reach 50 pounds.

You should find out how the weight is attached to you for the pull-up test.  Is it 50 pounds in a rucksack?  Or is it a 50 pound weight hanging off a weight belt?  Are you doing pull-ups in full tactical gear?

You should find this out, because how the extra weight is distributed on your body is going to affect pull-up difficulty.  The extra weight will shift your center of gravity, so pulling with a 50 pound kettlebell or dumbbell is going to feel very different from a 50 pound rucksack.  So train accordingly.

One last bit of advice: increase your grip strength.  Increasing your grip strength will increase your pull-up strength.  If you do pull-ups on a thick bar, it will increase your grip strength.  It is more difficult of course, but you will get more grip and pull-up strength development.

Train with a thick bar, and when you switch from a thick bar to a thin bar, you will be able to do way more pull-ups than before.  A lot of people do pull-ups at the gym where the pull-up stations have thin one inch thick handles.  But when they try to do pull-ups at a playground or jungle gym where the bars are thicker, they can’t do as many.  So find out how thick the bar is for the pull-up test.  You don’t want to be surprised.

If you don’t have access to a thick pull-up bar, then you can place Fat Gripz on a thin bar.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Muscle Building on a Busy Schedule

Q: What’s the best way to build muscle when you have the least amount of time?

My Answer: It depends on what kind of schedule you have.  In Strength and Physique: Training the Busy Bodybuilder I show you how to workout on a busy and unpredictable schedule.  This book will show you how to train on a low frequency program to maximize muscle growth.  So if you can get to the gym only 2-3 times per week, then this book is for you.

Now you can also go in the other direction and train frequently, multiple times throughout the day.

I know what you’re saying, “James, I just told you I have very little time to workout.  How can I train multiple times throughout the day?”

You have to audit your schedule and squeeze out time to train any which way you can.  Instead of doing an hour long workout which would block out a portion of your day, you can fracture the workout into mini workouts and inject them in between other activities.

For example, Peary Rader had a one day arm specialization routine where you would do a set of biceps and a set of triceps every hour on the hour for 12 hours.  Lifters who did this would add up to 3/4’s on an inch in arm growth.

Pavel Tsatsouline has a similar training concept called “greasing the groove” (GTG) where you would do pull-ups every time you pass by a pull-up bar set up in your house.

You can apply this concept of mini-workouts to a busy schedule.  Choose 2 body weight exercises and do a set of each every hour on the hour.  I would do something like a push-up variation and a squat variation.  The beauty of doing body weight exercises is that you can do them anywhere at any time and you don’t have to go to the gym.  If you can install a pull-up bar at your office or place of work, then I would add a set of pull-ups too.

Do this mini workout multiple times throughout the day, five days a week for 2-3 weeks.  Then for 3-4 weeks just do the mini-workout once a day, 5 days a week.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Staggered Sets for Grip Strength

Q: Hi James, 2 questions for you: 

  1. Several of your exercises, like the heavy squatting routine, requires up to 4 minutes of rest periods. James, I have ADD. I can’t wait around 4 minutes when I want to get in a solid effective heavy-based workout regimen. How do you recommend spending those minutes of rest instead of being stressed out just pacing around and my mind wandering and feeling like I’m wasting time? 
  2.  As for deadlifts, the weight I can lift is severely limited by my grip strength. Using wrist supporters allows me to deadlift up to 225 lbs instead of 95 lbs without them. However, one of my most important strength training goals is to improve my grip strength. Grip strength is VERY important to me. What would you recommend I do? Use other equipment like thick bar kettlebells for grip strength training and use the grip wraps for the deadlift? And are those grip wraps safe anyways?  

Thanks for your help as always. Love your blogs. 

My best,
Larry K.

My Answer: The long rest periods are there for a reason.  When you rest for up to 4 minutes between sets, it is to allow for full nervous system recovery.

Some workouts call for long rest periods, and these workouts are part of the decompression phases.  In decompression phases you're purposely pulling back on the amount of work per unit of time to build more muscle and strength.

Now if you have a hard time waiting around for a few minutes, then I suggest you do staggered sets.  Staggered sets are when you intersperse sets for smaller body parts into sets of larger muscle groups.

For example, you can intersperse sets of grip work in between sets of heavy squats:

  • Squat: 5-7 reps
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • One arm dead hangs
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • Squat: 5-7 reps
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • One arm dead hangs
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • and so on and so forth
If you want to build up your grip strength, then staggered sets of grip exercises are a great way to do it.  Here are some exercises to build grip strength: