PART 2 - STRENGTH TRAINING AND SUPPLEMENTATION
After publishing part 1 of this experiment I received a lot of feedback. Some people had nice things to say and others apparently think I'm a Cunt on Steroids. I learned that I have much to improve upon as a writer. I also learned that I cant please everyone.
With that being said, I want to make it clear that the writing here is just my opinion. The methods are what worked for me personally. Im just practicing what much smarter people wrote down on the internet. I AM NOT WORTHY! There are many ways to the finish line, and this is the path I'm on right now.
Any feedback is good feedback, so feel free to shit all over this post, but I've always prefered the positive comments slightly more. In the end I'm just trying to have fun with health and I hope some of you gain something from what I share.
p.s. - I'm not on steroids.
If you want to get big and strong, you have to move big weights. This is non-negotiable. Compound movements that load the entire skeleton stimulate the biggest hormone surge and growth. I ditched the biceps curls. There are many strength training programs but this is what made the most sense for my goals.
I train without much carbs, sometimes fasted. To reitterate, I recommend anyone attempting this become significanly fat adapted first. Otherwise this will be quite unpleasant.
Programming: I base my strength training on the work of Vladimir Zatziorsky. He’s quoted repeatedly in this article. He’s a world renowned sport biomechanist and former strength and conditioning coach to the Soviet Union Olympic teams. His book, “The Science and Practice of Strength Training” was my obsession. I read it, took notes, applied it in the weight room, re-read it and re-applied it. I’m stronger than I ever thought possible, it’s awesome and I feel like a super hero with the barbell.
I took a scientific approach to strength and size. There’s a lot of opinions out there. Everyone seems to be an expert. Listen to those with the best track record and mimic them. Find what works for YOU. And for gosh sakes have fun.
Powerlifting: Powerlifting is the competitive sport of the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. It’s the discipline I chose to reach my goals. Many powerlifters peak in their late 30's and early 40's. Being 31 this fact is a super confidence booster. Its what i needed to hear to get pumped for training...I can still be great goddamnit! If you’re dedicating time to fitness, might as well learn a sport and compete. Competition brings intensity, motivation and accelerated learning. Once I committed to a powerlifting meet my DNA changed. My training was fire! It’s like cleaning your house VS cleaning your house when a girl is coming over. Up the stakes…compete. I chose powerlifting because it seemed the most conducive to strength and size. You can find a meet near you here >> http://www.usapowerlifting.com/calendar/
Don’t train heavy too often. It decreases testosterone and interrupts muscle growth. I train 3 heavy days a week, once for each lift. The remaining days are for recovery and growth.
A friend of mine realized how important rest days are when he took a vacation. Usually he trains hard daily, but he was forced to rest. When returning home he obliterated personal strength records and gained lots of muscle. Training hard daily was stunting his gains.
If I have time for a 4th day I do accessory lifts, run trails or play with the steel mace. This all contrasts the strict linear movements of powerlifting and uses different energy systems.
If you’re one of those freaks that has to work out daily, get outdoors. Play with friends and family. Pick up a new hobby outside of fitness. Read a damn book, be creative, and stop being such a meat head.
If you are capable of training heavy more than three times a week, you’re not training hard enough. IMO
I train hard. I get nervous before lifts and dizzy afterward. Sometimes my face feels like its melting, my ears ring and I see stars. It hurts. But pain from injury is different than pain from protein breakdown. Push it harder until your forehead veins are bulging and your eyes look like Pokeballs…then do one more rep. Its easy to rack the weight. But champions go hard. Dont be a bitch. Train so hard that a worm hole opens to the dimension of Asgard. Thor himself can scream “ONE MORE REP PUSSY!” Make the Norse gods proud.
“With repeated effort approach, the weight must be lifted to failure: Only final lifts, in which a maximal number of MU’s (motor units) are recruited, are actually useful. The saying “no pain no gain” reflects this demand” -Zatsiorsky
Training sessions last 2’ish hours. It takes time to lift large volumes with recovery between sets. It’s time consuming, but necessary to get Juggernaut status. Find ways to be effective with your time.
Strength isn’t only about brute force, it can also be a meditative practice. Superheroes aren’t just gnarly hulks…they’re smart. Mindfulness is all about the present moment. Lifting heavy ass weights requires ultimate present moment or you will fail. Let the pressure of the iron cleanse the mind. Between sets I am still and clear mentally. Like Professor Xavier. My most creative ideas are generated here and I take many notes. This is The Zone.
Own the iron like Magneto, evolutionarily superior to humans. Feel the power. Approach the weight like a fuxking mutant! Psyche yourself up. Get mad…fuck world peace! Rip the bar off the ground like you’re tearing the planet in half! The human brain is capable of intense anger, utilize that. FEEL THE HATE FLOW THROUGH YOU.
Then bring the intensity back down.
Focus on breathing between sets. Coax your heart to calmness. Re-center and refocus. Imagine all the pretty flowers and butterflies...if you must.
Powerlifting is a cerebral sport. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, its one of the most technical sports I've competed in. Use it to train your body and mind. Hone your anger. Technique is everything. Refine it.
Accessory lifts are smaller movements that supplement the big lifts and stimulate growth. These are done after the main lift of the day. I do accessory work in 3 sets of 10-12 reps to failure, increasing weight weekly. Sometimes I dedicate an entire day to accessory work. Accessory work is easy compared to the big main lifts.
Deadlift accessory: Box squats, Yates row, weighted pullups, Romanian deadlift and calves
Here’s my favorite video for deadlift assistance work shown by George Leeman, an awesome powerlifter, and all around epic human. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msAyOuL-R0I
Bench Press accessory: Weighted Dips, Overhead Press, cable triceps extension, dumbbell flys
Squat accessory: Jumping variations, Pause squats, front squats (mostly with atlas stone), leg curls
Sauna Training aka steroid factory: This is the most underutilized tool in the gym. IMO. It boosts endurance, strength, muscle growth and brain health. In just 30 minutes you can increase growth hormone by 200%. Sauna speeds recovery, increases blood plasma and red blood cell count, Improves insulin sensitivity, increases norepinephrine which improves attention and focus. There’s literally too many benefits to list.
The feeling you get after the sauna is like doing recreational drugs. Basically, the sauna gets you high on opioids. I’d do sauna for this reason alone.
I do 30-40 minutes at a time. Do intermittent cold shower to build your heat tolerance.
The benefits are endless. Tim Ferriss writes about it here > http://fourhourworkweek.com/2014/04/10/saunas-hyperthermic-conditioning-2/
My ultimate goal is maximal strength, for competitive powerlifting and because being strong is fun and boosts confidence. My second goal is size (hypertrophy) to look more like Dr. Manhattan. The best number of reps for strength is 1-5 and for hypertrophy is 10-12. I train both ranges to achieve both goals. Always train strength sets first.
“If both the maximum effort [strength] and repeated effort [hypertrophy] methods are used in the same workout, maximal lifts should be included first…
…Because lifting a maximal training weight (maximal effort method) is recognized as the most efficient way to train this should be practiced at the beginning of a workout, following the warm up.” -Zatsiorsky
Warm up only as much as you need to and not a smidgen more. Save as much energy as possible for strength sets.
“Pyramid training, involves gradually changing the load in a series of sets in an ascending and then descending manner. This has been virtually abandoned by Olympic caliber athletes. The ascending part of the routine induces premature fatigue, while the descending portion is not efficient since it is performed in a fatigued state. For contemporary training, fast progression to the main training load is typical.” –Zatsiorsky
Basically, I work up to a few heavy sets of 1-5 reps, then I lower the weight and do a few sets of 10-12 reps.
Total Volume – Progressive overload
My bottom line is progressive overload. The load must be increased each week for gains. I track each pound lifted in my training journal. I enter the weight room knowing exactly how much I need to lift.
An example of Progressive overload in deadlift. Check out the total volumes.
Strength – 5 sets X 5 Reps @ 315 lbs = 7,875 lbs
Hypertrophy – 5 sets X 10 reps @ 225 lbs = 5,625 lbs
Total Volume – 13,500 lbs
Strength – 5 sets X 5 Reps @325 lbs = 8,125 lbs
Hypertrophy – 3 sets X 10 reps @225 lbs = 6,750 lbs
Total Volume – 14,875 lbs
Strength – 7 sets X 4 reps @ 335 lbs = 9,380 lbs
Hypertrophy – 3 sets X 10 reps @235 = 7,050 lbs
Total Volume – 16,430 lbs
My strength and hypertrophy volumes increase each week. I increase weight over time to build maximal strength. As the weights get heavier, I have to decrease the reps and increase total sets. The set and rep scheme can be manipulated in many ways. All that matters is total volume and weight progression.
As the program peaks, I add in power sets. These are done fast and violently, improving explosiveness. Below is an example of programming at the end of a training cycle. It accommodates for maximal strength (@ 1 rep), power (@ 6 reps) and hypertrophy (@12 reps). This would be a long session.
Strength – 5 sets X 1 rep @445 lbs = 2,225 lbs
Power – 5 sets X 6 reps @ 365 lbs = 10,950 lbs
Hypertrophy – 5 sets X 12 reps @ 315 lbs = 18,900 lbs
Total Volume – 32,075 lbs
“Strength training activates the synthesis of contractile muscle proteins and causes fiber hypertrophy only when there are sufficient substances for protein repair and growth. The building blocks of such proteins are amino acids, which must be available for resynthesis in the rest period after workouts…
…It is important to note that the actual requirements are not for protein but rather for selected amino acids.” – Zatsiorsky
Vladimir says eat amino acids during the rest period (sleep). I pretty much do everything the good doctor says, so I searched the internet for the best amino acids. What I found was the “Perfect Amino” (that’s actually the name) by BodyHealth.
I take it every night before bed. I noticed a decrease in recovery time, soreness and improved overall strength. My joints seemed to feel better too.
I don’t particularly enjoy supplemental protein powders, so I stopped taking them. They usually contain sugars, carbs and other random junk. They sometimes upset my stomach too. There’s actually a thing called “protein farts”. It’s a common phenomenon among exercisers who drink protein shakes, and it’s not pretty. Excessive smelly gas is actually a sign that something isn’t working correctly.
Perfect Amino is only 8 essential amino acids, no carbs, no sugars no bullshit. It just feels like a “clean” product.
My favorite thing about Perfect Amino is the 99% utilization. Nearly all of it is absorbed by the body and used for growth and repair. There’s nothing else like this product. To put this in perspective, whey protein is only 18% utilized by the body. Bodyhealth, the company that makes Perfect Amino, tested this in a legitimate lab. I like that. Any protein you swallow that isn’t utilized by the body must be dealt with. Our bodies have to filter and excrete it. This is metabolically expensive…it takes energy. Energy that could be used for training, growing or just life in general. Perfect amino is efficient.
I’ve used all types of amino and protein supplements. This is my favorite. If you can find something better, I’d like to hear about it.
Full disclosure: I’m a Bodyhealth affiliate, but I was using the Perfect Amino long before becoming one. They reached out to me after seeing some of my social posts promoting their product.
If you want to try perfect amino you can use this link and coupon code Gabe10 for 10% off.
When to take amino acids:
BCAA: Another amino acid supplement I take during workouts is “Scivation Raw BCAA” (no affiliation). Studies show BCAA’s boost anabolic gains. I’ve had good results using them. They help with training intensity, duration and seem to aid in recovery.
I chose this particular product because, like Perfect Amino, it’s no bullshit. The name “Raw” is accurate in that it only contains amino acids.
I’m a minimalist when it comes to supplementation. I think most of our needs are met with real foods.
Pre-Workout: My stance on pre-workout is that if you need it, you shouldn’t be taking it. If you’re not naturally amped to train you need to improve your sleep or nutrition.
With that being said, there are some pretty cool supplements out there that kick the intensity up a notch. Like a powerup. I like to take these occasionally, not because I need the pick me up, but because they’re fun. I’ve always enjoyed stimulants…all types. Just make sure the ingredients of whatever you eat are legit and in line with your nutrition goals.
My all-time favorite is old school caffeine. Simple, but effective. Studies show it’s great for exercise. I prefer really strong green tea. I brew 2-3 bags for one drink and start sipping it 10 minutes before training.
Next post...Hormones and sleep...
Thanks for reading,