On the Anabolic Mind's forums, a powerlifters take on getting big and why some people who are always over analysing things never grow
Virtually everything you’ve ever read from a bodybuilding magazine is heresy and should be regarded as not worth the paper it was printed on. The programs written by the so called “superstars” of the bodybuilding world were actually ghost written by some guy in a cubicle who doesn’t know a thing about proper training, programming, exercise phys, or periodization. If, by chance the program was actually written by the “superstar” you can rest easy as long as you are one of the most genetically gifted people in history AND you are on such a ridiculous amount of drugs that you have to tan to hide the yellowing of your skin due to liver failure.
The fact is that big, strong guys are a dime a dozen, and many of them get that way in spite of their training knowledge than because of it.
I know what I’m talking about in the world of training not because I’m the biggest or the strongest (although, at 270lbs and an 800 squat, 600 bench, and 700 deadlift I can hold my own), and not because I know the most about exercise phys (though I can hold my own there too), but because I have trained with and become friends with best. I have trained at Westside Barbell Club, with the Metal Militia, talk on a continual basis with the best strength coaches in the nation and world-wide, and the training methods I prescribe have been tested in the gym on literally hundreds and hundreds of regular, everyday athletes and shown to work. Period.
So here’s what I can stand before you today and say with great conviction what I know to be true about training:
1) I believe in general that the majority of people don’t work hard enough. If there’s one thing we can learn from the old Eastern Bloc countries, it’s that they worked harder than us, and that primarily, is why they always beat us in the Olympics. Work hard in the gym (even if your program sucks) and you will be rewarded.
2) I also believe that most people don’t put near enough emphasis on lower body and core work. The key to getting big is full squats and deadlifts. If you are looking at your routine and you see that you are training upper body 3 or 4 days per week and lower body once, you have a serious problem. The majority of athletes should live and die in the squat rack.
3) And for that matter, EVERYONE’S program should be centred around these exercises: Full Squat, Deadlifts (or cleans or both), heavy barbell rows, bench press, and Standing Barbell Military Push Presses. Add pull ups, barbell curls, dips, heavy abdominal work, and some core work (back extensions, reverse hypers, or glute hams) and that should make up 95-100% of the total number of exercises you do. The most effective training is simple and hard.
4) Training a bodypart once per week (and one bodypart per day) is one of the worst ways to train. It will create a rut in your training that you can’t dig out of.
Training a bodypart twice per week has always been shown to be superior to once per week training of a muscle. The problem is with the influx of "Weider Principles" and other bodybuilding trash that's posted in the magazines, the masses have been stuck in the one-bodypart-per-day-per-week rut for years.
No strength athletes train a bodypart once per week. Most Olympic lifters, powerlifters, and strongman train their backs at least four times per week, and last time I checked, they weren't lacking in back width.
The simple fact is that training using an upper lower split or a push pull split or 3 full body days will provide double or triple the training stimulus than training a muscle once per week and thus, if done correctly will lead to much, much greater growth and strength gains.
5) Training to near muscular failure has shown to induce identical hypertrophy gains than training to all out muscular failure. The reason you guys can’t train a muscle more than once per week is because you are destroying it when you do train it. Learn to hit or miss that last rep and then call it done. Don’t do ridiculous amounts of forced reps, negatives, etc. until you literally can’t move the muscle. Take it to near failure and then your muscles will recover enough so that you can train them again in 3-4 days.
Understand that there is a huge difference in training to near failure and not training hard. I would never advocate to not train hard. Actually, quite the opposite – try to squat for 5 sets of 5 reps using only 10lbs less than your five rep max. That’s absolutely brutal. But when you get done, don’t go to the leg press machine and keep pounding out sets and stripping off weight until you literal can’t do a single leg press with only the sled. That’s absurd, and you can’t recover from it in 3 days.
6) Squat at least below parallel every time. Are you kidding me? I can’t believe some people are still quarter squatting and saying that riding a squat all the way to the ground is bad for your knees. Learn the facts. Stopping at or above parallel puts much more strain on your knees than going ass to grass. Plus going all the way down in an Olympic style back squat will put more mass on you than any other exercise. Period.
7) Isolation exercises are absolute crap. 90% of your routine should be made up of full squats, deadlifts or cleans, bench press, standing overhead press, heavy barbell rows, pull-ups, dips, and core work (abs, glute ham raises, back extensions, reverse hypers). Isolation exercises and machines are the worst thing that ever happened to the weight training world.
8) Quit using pyramid rep schemes like 10,8,6,4,2 – Instead, your time would be better served doing boring (but effective) gut busting sets of 5x5 or 4x8-10 using the SAME WEIGHT for each set. They WILL produce better results than the pyramid scheme. BTW, check your ego at the door when you do these.
9) I’ll quote my good friend, Glenn Pendlay (the best S&C coach in the nation) for the next one:
"Most athletes do too many exercises. Many times they look over other peoples programs like they are at a buffet. They pick a little of this and a little of that from a variety of programs, and end up with something useless. People think you have to train each muscle with a different specific exercise. Many guys in college athletics would do better if they would just randomly slash off half of what they are doing, and then work twice as hard on the half that is left."
10) Another of my favourites from Glenn:
"im so sick and tired of hearing people who just started training who say they cant gain weight. jeez I’ve heard this crap so often. every day it seems i have some stupid kid ask me about how to gain weight... in restaurants, at the grocery store, you name it. for some reason there seems to be a sign on my back or something. usually i know its worthless to talk to them, sometimes i actually waste my time. talked to a kid at the golden corral a couple of days ago. took almost an hour when i should have been enjoying my all you can eat steak night... 3 days later i see him in the gym when i just happened to go in to talk to a friend who i knew was there... kid was there doing preacher curls. said hi to me, then said well i talked to my friend about what you said and he said he tried it once and over trained so i decided to do this thing i read about... on the other hand about 6 months ago i talked to this 6' tall, 150lb kid who wanted to know about getting stronger. kid had done well in judo, won some titles, also after that had done cycling, turned pro then quit a year later, quite a good road racer. he actually did what i told him i guess, about 3 months after i saw him the first time i saw hiim again, he weighed about 185... he wanted to try Olympic weightlifting so i let him train with the team i coach. now hes weighing 204 and clean and jerking about 300lbs, 54lbs gained in 6 months. no drugs. Olympic squat from 175lbs to 385lbs, front squat from 150lbs to 330lbs. hell be a good lifter, has a good work ethic. needs to be 240 and fairly lean, will compete eventually in the 231 pound class. will take about another 12-15 months i suppose. why is a kid like this the exception and not the rule? why will kids do the same old thing for years in the absence of results, and not try anything new? what the hell is wrong with people. there is a gym in town, i know the owner so i go and talk to him sometimes, there are all these kids in there, skinny little ****s, doing curls. they never progress, you see the same faces one year to the next, same bodies too."
11) Ultra slow reps or TUT is, for the most part completely worthless. Will it work? Yes. But the total amount of work that one can complete is much lower when utilizing slow reps. Just go natural. Don’t try to be super fast, and bouncy, and don’t try to go ultra slow. Just do it naturally and controlled.
12) “The burn”, “the pump” and “the feel” have nothing to do with the effectiveness of an exercise. Yes, even I have been caught on upper body days looking at myself in the mirror when I’m all blown up, but that has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the last exercise. You do hammer strength bench presses and flyes for sets of 20 and I’ll do heavy barbell bench presses and deep dips. One of us will “feel the pump” more and the other one will grow.
13) Likewise, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) also gives no clue as to the effectiveness of a workout. It just means A) you have a ton of microtrauma in a muscle or a lot of lactic acid waste products. Congratulations.
14) “Core stability training” is not done on a swiss ball or a stability board. It’s done by pulling heavy deadlifts, standing overhead presses, full squats, heavy barbell rows, heavy farmer’s walks, Atlas stones, tire flipping, reverse hypers, heavy back extensions, glute ham raises, and heavy abdominal work.
15) A good gym has nothing to do with how nice the machines are or if they have a pool or tanning beds or even if it’s air conditioned. A good gym smells like a mix of body odour and liniment and supplies their members with a big box of chalk.
Kelly Baggett, one of the best strength coaches his take as well on how to get bigger
This is not to attack anyone but I'd be willing to bet a lot more natural muscle has been built using the recommendations of Matt and Glenn over the years then all the complicated bodybuilding schemes out there. The problem with bodybuilders is they try to overcomplicate everything and lose site of the big picture.....that's making strength gains in the gym on basic movements along with scale weight increases on a week to week basis. Now you can complicate that as much as you want but those are the only 2 things it takes to get big. It doesn't take any sort have fancy specialized training routines and special diets. If more people would spend more time in dark stinky ass gyms worrying about putting weight on the very basic movements and spend more time eating in high volume (note the golden corral reference) with an emphasis on gaining scale weight then a lot more muscle would be built.
For every bodybuilder who has success building a physique naturally I'll show you at least 20 who don't get jack **** in the way of results because they sit around with their thumb up their butt worrying about this and worrying about that and basing everything off of their "pump"...worrying about the "feel" of this exercise and trying to trash the muscle every workout without any regards to periodization and failing to realize that if they would've just strived to put 50 lbs on their squat and 15 lbs on the scale their problems would be taken care of......They go starving themselves to death on boiled chicken and broccoli while spending $300 per month in supplements thinking they can get "bigger" and "smaller" at the same time spending 5 years wasting time not gaining 10 lbs of scale weight all while looking at strength athletes with their nose up in the air when what they don't realize is that fat powerlifter they like to make fun of has actually put on 50 lbs of muscle in the last year and he could spend 3 months stripping that fat off and hand you your ass and balls in a bodybuilding contest simply because he trained very simple, focused on strength gains and most importantly wasn't afraid to sit down at the dinner table and do some serious eating.
Give me 2 twin brothers one who hangs around with and reads bodybuilding related info for a year and another who hangs around with and trains at a powerlifting gym both without steroids and after that year is over let's see which one builds more muscle. Nine times out of 10 I'll take the powerlifter.
Having said that a strength athletes routine may not be 100% optimal for a bodybuilder but there are a lot of things people could learn from strength trainers.