Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Chiseling Armored Abs

Q: "I want to know if I follow the Hypertrophy Training for Ectomorphs program and I go twice a week to my Krav Maga lessons (which involve a lot of cardio), then am I facing overtraining and less hypertrophy? Just for info, I'm preparing for the RCMP cadet program. Am I on the right track with this?"

"Thanks a lot. Your work is inspiring."

-Fran├žois C.
Montreal, Quebec

My Answer: Thanks for the compliment. You should be OK, but if you find it taxing on your body, then just do the 10-8-6-15 program twice a week (evenly spaced out) instead of 3 times a week. Also keep the workouts under an hour to avoid overtraining.

Typically, when one regularly engages in martial arts or some other athletic activity, then strength training in the gym twice a week is best. Most people find it to be overtraining if they went to the gym 3 times or more AND played a sport or martial art.

Anyway, good luck with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police!

Q: "I recently read your article Building a Better Engine: Strength Training for Fat Loss, and I have the following questions:

-Am I suppose to do HIIT with the regimen or on other days?
-Do I need to increase my protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake?
-Do I need to increase my caloric intake?

"What supplements should I be taking? I am already on a multivitamin, fish oil, flax oil, borage oil, B-complex, Forslean (a T-booster from Prosource), etc. I have planned on doing your regimen on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I was going to do core exercises and HIIT on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Would you suggest a different plan? I appreciate any advice you are willing to offer."

Victor M.

My Answer: You can do HIIT and ab work during your off days, that's fine. As far as diet, it's hard to say, because I have no idea what you're eating. I will say though, that if you're choosing this program to become lean, then you should follow a low carb, moderate protein, higher fat intake. With regards to your supplements, you look like you have too much redundancy: a multi-vitamin should have B vitamins in there already. If you have fish oil, then you don't really need the flax. Fish is better anyway.

Q: "My name is Ty. Currently I have been following your training routine titled Hypertrophy Training for the Ectomorph. But for some odd reason my muscles have been acting strange. What has been happening is when I work out, my muscles will give up on the very last set (which is normal of course), but here's where I'm worried: They don't get sore during that last set. They just stop and thats it.

"I've been getting a lot of calories, at least 4k a day. Mostly from chicken, rice, craisins, oatmeal. And I eat a small jar of organic peanut butter a day for protein. This is because I tend to hate supplements. I've talked to some health officials, and they've been OK with the amount of protein, but they did suggest that I eat some veggies as well.

"Anyways the very next day after my workouts I'm not sore. I don't get it. I'm pushing very hard, but I'm not sore. Why is this? And on top of that, the harder I work out the more energized I feel. Could this be due to the calories? I just don't understand why I'm not cramping."

Tyrone F.

My Answer: Cramping? Why the hell do you want to cramp up? Anyway, you're not getting sore, because your muscles are becoming accustomed to the training. Soreness doesn't necessarily mean you're getting bigger. Soreness, however, is associated with a new stimulus. So if you want to be sore all the time, just change the exercises from workout to workout. Or just buy my book and you will find plenty of training routines to make you sore as hell.

Don't worry about not being sore. As long as you are gaining in size or strength, that is what counts. And as far as you feeling energized from the workouts, it's because the rest periods are long (3 minutes) and the number of sets is low (4 sets). Hitting your muscles hard and brief will wake up your nervous system.

Q: "Hey, I’m in law enforcement in Las Vegas, and I started your workout Return to Cop Land. At first I was skeptical, because you go against a lot of the training norms. But I have been stuck in a rut, so I gave it a go. Let me tell you: boy did it work for me. I was so impressed, I purchased your book. The only thing you do not really cover is abdominal training, and I would be real interested in what you have to say on the subject matter."

Thanks for everything,

My Answer: Thanks for purchasing my book. I glad you like the results from the Return to Cop Land article. Las Vegas PD, huh? If you work patrol, then I don't envy you. I can't imagine doing a foot or bike chase through the crowds on the Strip.

Anyway, as far as abdominal training I purposely left it out, because I'm not big on ab training at all. You're more likely to overtrain when you add ab exercises, because there is a large net of nerves in your core area. This is why people feel the wind knocked out of them when they get punched or kneed in the stomach and solar plexus.

I don't do any direct ab work at all, and I simply tense my abs for multi-joint exercises such as pull-ups, front squats and military presses. Tensing the abs and bringing them in to make your stomach flat will develop a more "cut" look to your abs, IF YOU DIET. The abs will look like they were etched in, rather than popping out. If you do a lot of direct work for the abs, like crunches or sit-ups, then your abs will pop out, and you'll look like you have rolls of abs instead of carved abs.

In the book, I go over exercise selection where I state that for complete development of a muscle, you only need 2 carefully selected exercises. I go over how to choose these two exercises for each muscle group. The abs are no different. So if you're hell bent on ab training, then you need an exercise that works the rectus abdominus (the six pack) and one that works the transverse abdominus, which is hidden underneath the rectus abdominus. The 2 best ab exercises for these 2 portions are hanging leg raises (for the 6 pack) and Gecko planks for the transverse abdominus.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Healing Tendonitis with Eccentric Training

Q: "Hi! I'm Rafael and I've read your Strength Training for Fat Loss article on, and I must say it looks very promising. It reminds me of Bruce Lee's strength training. Anyway I'm going to start doing the program you put up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I was wondering what YOU recommend for cardio on Tuesday and Thursday?

"I'm planning on doing 20-30 minutes of H.I.I.T. on the treadmill. You know, 5 minutes warm up then 20 second sprints alternated with 10 second jogs for a total of 12 minutes, followed by a 5 minute cool down. Then followed by 15 minutes of hitting the heavy bag.

I'm just looking for some suggestions. I'm in great cardio shape, but I have stubborn belly fat that I'm trying to lose. I've lost over 60 pounds and still have this belly fat that's so hard to lose! That being I use to hit up a lot of keggers and what not.

"I hope to hear from you as I would greatly appreciate it! I hope you get to read this, and thanks for your time! Also I was thinking of at different times maybe putting in bench presses in the program. How many sets and reps would you recommend? Your program seems amazing that being I practice martial arts, so I don't want to get bulky or bigger (not too much). Thanks again."

My Answer: Congratulations on losing 60 pounds! That's quite an accomplishment. With regards to cardio, high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) followed by the heavy bag is fine. When it comes down to stubborn fat (like the abs and love handles), your diet needs to be clean and strict. That means no alcohol, no carbs except from vegetables.

Now as far as incorporating bench presses into the Bigger Engine program, simply substitute bench presses for pushups and perform 10-12 reps alternated with 10-12 reps of deadlifts.  

Q: I have an imbalance in my lats. My right is significantly bigger then my left. I have tried everything and every training technique available on earth but can never seem to stimulate growth in my left or feel the lat working whatsoever. 

Overall both my lats are extremely weak and small. I also get a weird felling in both my delts when doing heavy chest. It feels like someone is blowing air into my shoulders, and they start to get very heavy and become painful. I have been training for 5 years, and I have recently started doing assisted wide grip pull ups and chins for the first time ever as I cannot do them unassisted.  

I also have very tight lats, tight shoulders, traps and chest. Any suggestions on fixes for the lat problem? Any help would be much appreciated.

Thank you Sir.

My Answer: I'm getting the sense that your chest and front deltoids are overdeveloped and this strength imbalance is preventing you from fully activating your lats.  I'd suggest laying off the chest work and prioritizing your back first in your workouts.

DON'T DO MACHINE ASSISTED PULL-UPS AND CHIN-UPS.  I've explained this numerous times before on this blog, but just understand that the machine is not going to help you in building your pull-up strength or your back.

If you cannot do a pull-up, then just do V-bar pulldowns and V-bar cable rows.  Go through a full range of motion and focus on getting a good stretch on the lats with each rep.  NO PARTIAL REPS!  Also fully contract the back on each rep by pulling the shoulder blades back and flexing the lats for 2 seconds.

Now if one lat is significantly smaller than the other, then you should get checked out by an A.R.T. practitioner.  You may have a shoulder impingement that's pinching a nerve, which may be why you're not feeling the lats.

Hope that helps.

Q: I have been off for a year now from tendonitis and golfer's elbow. I babied it, because I just couldn't figure it out, and with treatment it always seemed to linger. I got fed up and started back lifting just doing basic movements and icing it afterwards. It keeps feeling like it is getting better and stronger. 

My question is what would you recommend replacing Zottman curls with? They are a great movement, but I feel that it might be something that aggravates that area. I just started back doing the Shotgun Method, because I didn't know which one to get back into. Do you have a suggestion for which workout to try next after I am done with this one? Your books have been great!


My Answer: If Zottman curls aggravate your tendonitis, then you should definitely avoid it.  The key to recovery is to avoid exercises that aggravate your tendonitis and perform exercises that work the elbows but don't cause you any pain.  This means you have to experiment with different exercises and find out which hurt and which do not.  Go through Strength and Physique: High Tension Exercises for Muscular Growth and you'll find many exercises to choose from.

Once you've figured out what exercises work your elbows without aggravating them, you'll perform high reps (12-15) along with eccentric training.  There is some evidence to suggest that negative reps strengthen the tendons, which would alleviate the tendonitis.

So a good program to follow after the Shotgun Method is a Muscle Spinning program.  Do 4 sets of 12-15 reps on each exercise.  On the last 2 sets of each exercise, perform 12 reps followed by 3 negative reps.  Using the cable curl as an example:

Set 1: 15 reps
Set 2: 15 reps
Set 3: 12 reps followed by 3 negative reps at a slight higher weight
Set 4: 12 reps followed by 3 negative reps at a slight higher weight

I suggest choosing cable and machine exercises, since negatives can be more easily performed.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Four Pull-up Variations

A potpourri of pull-up variations:
  1. Muscle-up
  2. L-Sit Pull-up
  3. Tucked Lever Pull-up
  4. CTI Pull-up

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Pull-up Potpourri Routine

Want to work on your pull-ups and widen your lats? The following is a pull-up/back specialization workout called the "Pull-up Potpourri Routine."

The Potpourri Routine is a forgotten bodybuilding workout that predates the invention of sets. It is the 1920's version of German Volume Training and was a favorite of John Grimek. In potpourri training, you perform 10 exercises for a muscle group, but only one set per exercise.

The Potpourri Routine works best as a muscle specialization workout.  So if you wanted to bring up the size of a muscle group lagging in size, you could apply this 10 exercises/1 set each method to a muscle group.

The Potpourri Routine lends itself well to pull-ups, since there are so many variations of the movement.  Here's how a Pull-up Potpourri Workout would look:

  1. Archer pull-up
  2. High pull-up
  3. L-sit pull-up
  4. Commando pull-up
  5. Wide grip pull-up
  6. Wide grip chin-up
  7. Medium grip pull-up
  8. Medium grip chin-up
  9. Close grip pull-up
  10. Close grip chin-up

Keep sets for all other muscle groups down to three.  Perform the Pull-up Potpourri Workout once every 5-7 days for a 3-4 weeks.  Then follow a low volume decompression program.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to do Muscle-ups

Q: What do you think of muscle-ups?  I'm not able to do a muscle-up, even though I can do 10-15 strict pull-ups.  Any advice on how to do them?

My Answer: Muscle-ups are a great multiple compound movement, sort of like a calisthenic version of the clean and jerk.  It takes quite a bit of explosive strength to do the muscle-up.  Unfortunately it is very hard on the joints, namely the elbows and shoulders.  Repetitive muscle-ups (along with kipping pull-ups) are responsible for a lot of CrossFit injuries.

L-sit pull-up
That said if you want to build the strength to do clean bar muscle-ups, then I would focus on three exercises:

  1. L-sit pull-ups
  2. Waist pull-ups
  3. Straight bar dips.

Practice the L-sit pull-up, pulling the bar to your chest.  Over time, pull the bar farther and farther down your torso, from your chest to your stomach and eventually to your waist.

At this point it would become a high pull-up, also known as a waist pull-up or an explosive pull-up.  Think of the movement as a pull-up feeding into a pressdown.

Once you're able to do a high pull-up to the waist, then it is just a matter of transitioning from the waist pull-up to a straight bar dip.  To do this, you'll need to pull-up to the waist and when the bar bar reaches the waist, you pull the bar again and lean your upper body forward, tilting your L-sit body over the bar, then press up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My Favorite Strength and Bodybuilding Books

Q: "I am from Australia and just finished reading your article on widening your back. I am currently training to increase my back size but am crippled with a right shoulder injury due to a tumor being removed from it hindering me from doing heavy shoulder exercises and compound exercises which include the shoulders.

"However I have been training my back, and this is my routine 3 weeks in:

Lat pull downs 3 sets of 8-10
Seated rows 3 sets of 8-10
T bar row 3 sets of 6-8
Dumbbell shrugs 2 sets of as many as I can

"I want to do pull ups, but the strain on my shoulder stops me from doing so. Do you recommend I use a weighted pull up machine to help me pull myself up? The stiff arm pull downs will be included in my routine from now on.

"Also what do you think of this exercise: Straight arm presses (you sit down on a vertical chest press and push the weight out only using your lats keeping your arms straight at all time. Sort of like pushing your shoulders forward and then returning them again).

"Also what supplement brands do you recommend for protein and creatine? I am currently using Horleys ice whey (32grams of protein per serving and .3 carbs) and Celltech mass creatine.

"I am a personal trainer and would just like to see your insight into things, as I have just started PT a few months ago."

-Michael J.

My Answer: I don't recommend a machine assisted pull-up, because it offers no real benefit to helping you learn how to do a pull-up. Do partner assisted pull-ups instead.

As far as supplements, I prefer Biotest. They make effective high quality supplements with cutting edge technology.

Straight arm presses are fine, but why don't you just do scap pushups? These are way better. Quit fucking around with machines all the time.

Q: "When it comes to strength training and bodybuilding who are some of your favorite trainers? Do you have any favorite training books that you find yourself referencing and re-reading over and over?"


My Answer: Strength and Physique: The Articles has a recommended reading section which showcases trainers and authors who've had an enormous influence on me. In addition, you should check these books:

Q: "Does your book have suggestions on the lower ab 'pooch?' What about ways to increase lung capacity through training and ways to avoid knee strain?"

- Jason C.

My Answer: Strength and Physique:The Articles is specifically a BODYBUILDING BOOK. It is not about rehab for the knee or cardio training. It is about the nuts and bolts of physique training.

Now if you're looking to fix that pooch, then do some hanging leg raises and front levers:

Q: "Hey James. My name is Andy, and I am a police officer in NYC. I saw your 4 Shocks Technique to Widen Your Back article on 

"My main problem is my back is very weak, and I can't do more than 5 or 6 pull ups! Any tips on how to strengthen my lats, so I can do more pull ups with my body weight or other exercises to help me improve? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again and stay safe."


My Answer: Four to five pull-ups is better than none, so don't worry. At least you have a foundation of strength with which to work on. I've written about this before: Increasing Your Pull-ups. For you, the first 2 methods are best suited for your level of pull-up strength.