Q & A
I'm having trouble feeling trap activation while doing shrugs. What do you recommend?
Torso placement has a lot to do with trap activation. You can be upright, 45° angles, or lower. Tweak how your torso is set up every set. Start with one set completely upright, on the next set lean back a good 4 inches. Continue doing this into you start to feel the tension transferred to different parts of your upper back and traps.
I'm getting a lot of bicep activation during my back workouts. Is that normal??
One thing you need to realize is when training back you should be focusing on pulling through your elbow, not your hand!! Pulling through your hand is going to engage your bicep more. If you can make a mental note to pull through your elbow, you'll feel better activation in your back!
How long do you rest between sets?
45 seconds to a 1 minute!
What rep tempo do you use when there's no tempo listed? Tempo Example: (4:1:1)
If there's no tempo listed, then I just did regular reps! No specific tempo. Tempo is for time under tension, or you can think of it as 'feeling' the contractions or mind-muscle connection. Focusing on tempo has helped immensely with my training!!
Does using knee wraps or sleeves help with muscle growth/strength?
No, but they do help keep my knees and joints tight when lifting heavier weight!!
There are two different kinds, sleeves and wraps, I have both! Sleeves will come in different pressure sizes - I think mine are mediums. Wraps take a bit more practice to get used to, since you have to adjust to get the right amount of pressure. Definitely do your research! You don't want to make them too tight and hurt yourself!!
How much weight should I be losing weekly/monthly while leaning up?
I recommend 1 to 1.5lbs a week for a healthy, steady, quality weight loss. First week you start your diet you may see a bigger drop, but aside from that it should be slow and steady!!
Do you change your workouts on/off season? Is your strength any different?
My workout routine stays the same, whether I'm building or cutting!! Too many people associate weight-loss with losing strength - not the case! Attack every workout. If you're feeding yourself correctly, you should have just as much energy while cutting!
How do you vary your training to avoid plateaus?
Your body is an incredible machine and it adapts SO easily. In order to grow you need to keep breaking it down. I don't do '3 sets of 10 for 4 exercises' type of shit every day, I vary my rep ranges - from 4 to 30 within the same workout. I would bet that between hand/foot placement varieties, rep range variety, and use of drop-sets, I never do the same workout twice. I may follow the same exercise plan, but variations make each set different.
I also don't do Chest-Mondays, I hit each muscle group every 4 days. Giving me three days of rest in between.
I see you train Biceps and Triceps on the same day - how many exercises/sets of each? And you've said you like volume training, how long are your rests between sets?
For smaller muscle groups (shoulders, biceps, triceps) I do around 10-12 sets per muscle group, per workout - which I break into 2-4 different exercises. (ex: 2 different exercises, 5-6 sets of each OR 4 different exercises, 2-3 sets each) Making sure I hit each muscle at multiple angles.
Honestly I wait until I'm rested enough to hit the reps I'm shooting for on that next set. If I'm looking to hit 15 reps, but not resting enough and I only get 10 before failure then it's not benefiting me at all. If I wanted to get my heart rate up, I'd do cardio!!
Do you believe it's possible to build muscle while leaning out (in a deficit)?
I don't! It's impossible. In order to build muscle, you need to be in a caloric surplus. You can build while avoiding a bunch of fat gain, but it will require meticulous macro tracking. It's generally understood that you'll be gaining a few lbs while bulking.
How often do you train abs?
I hit abs about 2 months out from a shoot or show. Abs are revealed when you lose enough body fat, so no amount of ab training will make them pop any sooner!
Hey man the site is awesome so far. You've made a huge impact on my lifting and stuff since I came across you earlier this year. Both the "steroid question" and the "realistic expectation" videos were exactly what I needed to hear right now. For the last few months I've been doing a major bulk; heavy lifts, plenty of rest days, ton of calories, and keeping up with supplements. I've seen awesome improvements and feel better than I have in a while. I plan to finish this bulk and start to trim or 'cut' March through June. Is this a realistic approach?
Honestly man, if you aren't getting ready for a show or a photoshoot, I would grow! I once started a 6 month off season that turned into 6 years. You gotta keep your long term goals in mind. In bodybuilding, what EVERYONE wants is muscle. Keep your body fat in check, don't get too crazy, but grow and enjoy the process man. The most fun I have is being in off season, and building! Once you start cutting, you won't be making any more muscle gain. So if size is your goal, build for as long as you can!!
Can you please clarify which back workout routine is for back widening and which one is for back thickness? Does high intensity interval training harm gains for beginners?
Width work: I focus on pull-up variations, pull down variations, or pull overs
Thickness: I do more bent over rows, deadlifts, cable row variations, single arm rows
I think HIIT is good for all stages of bodybuilding! It becomes harmful to muscle growth when you aren't eating enough to counteract what the cardio is burning off. Make sure you are still eating enough to grow!
I put my mind to it and lost 85 pounds but still had lots of extra skin and fat. I tried doing 100 sit-ups every morning, running 45 minutes a day, HIIT cardio and various ab exercises, weight lifting ,and I was eating healthy. Still no abs. I workout 6 days a week and any mass I try to gain back just turns to fat. Can I have any pointers or tips on how I can get the abs I've always wanted?
The key to getting a six-pack is losing body fat. All the sit ups in the world won't help if you have a layer of fat covering your abs. That being said, if you start dieting and you're dropping weight but still not seeing abs, you're most likely dropping from other areas! Your body drops fat where IT wants to. It takes time and patience to drop enough body fat to expose your abs - especially if your mid-section carries more than other body parts. Keep your diet in line and stay consistent!!
I want to build strength in my back, but my lower back tightens up so quickly - the next I can barely bend over. What do you recommend?
Ever hear someone say "I cant sit down after leg day"? That’s working out for ya! As long as you aren't dealing with prior injury, and the weight you're using is within reasonable limits, you sound like you're doin it right! There's a big difference between pain and tightness/ soreness. Lifting properly will cause some pretty gnarly soreness. Proper nutrition and supplementation will aid the recovery. When sore, stretch, foam roll, and drink lots of water!
Do you prefer volume or HIT workouts?
Volume works best for me personally. I've tried the HIT, Mike Mentzer / Dorian style workouts, but when you find something that gives you the best results, you stick to that!
What do you attribute most to your leg size and separation?
I POSE like crazy. Especially during prep when I'm lean enough to see the muscle actually working.
Squats! Obviously. I believe in doing lots of compounds and keeping my knees within shoulder width apart. It's what has helped me over the years!
High AND low reps. I'll hit 30 reps and 5 reps within the same workout! All different muscle fibers getting hit!
Who do you look up to most as a professional Bodybuilder?
I love Tom Platz. The guy has the drive and passion I want. I look up to people that didn’t have great genetics and built an amazing physique from scratch!
Do you train abs? Forearms?
I used to train abs quite a bit, but currently experimenting with NOT training them. Hopefully working on waist management type stuff will refine my mid-section. So as of now, I do not train my abs. Forearms I train on rest days! I usually keep my reps around 15-20 with a good squeeze and slow negatives to really get them burning. Also incorporating a good back day with no wrist wraps will definitely help!
Do you foam roll?
Yes. I need to be better at it though. When I really focus on incorporating it in, I do it before my lifts!! It really helps with my contractions. I do it post-workout sometimes, but generally when trying to get that lactic acid flushed out, I will do LISS post workout.
Do you believe in a certain time to do cardio? Pre, post, night, before you eat?
I schedule cardio around my workout. Once my cardio increases to a point where I can break it up, I'll usually do it post workout and then later at night. That’s my favorite way to do it.
Last Updated: 3/9/16
I'm trying to lean up for spring break, which is 3 weeks away. I'm currently eating a low-carb diet with protein and lots of fruit & vegetables. Is there anything else I can do to lose the mid-section fat?
3 weeks is not enough time to lose body fat in a healthy way! Sure you can drop 10lbs of scale weight by cutting out your carbs, but you'll blow back up after eating off-plan a few days into your vacation AND you won't get the physical results you're looking for! My recommendation is always to A) give yourself plenty of time to diet down for an event and B) whether or not you have time, get yourself on track with your macros! Make sure you're eating a well rounded diet of protein, fats, and plenty of carbs. You'd be surprised at what 3 weeks of cleaner eating can do for your physique! You're much more likely to binge or cheat within those 3 weeks if you're over-restricting yourself. So get your macros in line, stick to them, and next time give yourself a bit more time to prepare!!
Does meal frequency matter?
Plenty of people don't believe it matters at all! I think a lot of it comes down to personal preference. I want to fit good quality meals around my workout (pre and post) so that I'm full of energy/strength, not lagging at all during my lift! The rest are scheduled to fit my lifestyle. But there's a difference between not eating because you aren't prepared, and not eating because you're literally not able to (schedule conflicts, working, sleeping, etc).
On busy days I sometimes use 2 scoops of protein powder at once, instead of dividing them between 2 meals. Can your body fully absorb all that protein in a sitting?
I've seen research that supports both sides of this absorption debate. I personally do NOT believe the body can consume over 100g protein in a sitting, so I generally keep my meals under 50g and it's worked for me!
I've definitely gone over at times (off-season cheat meals in particular) but I'm usually also over in carbs and fats on those meals!! So I don't expect my body to be able to absorb everything that's coming in without some resulting in body fat.
Why do you have high/low days in your diet?
High carb days replenish glycogen storage and help spike your insulin levels! Good for increasing your metabolism as well. Keep in mind, when I'm in off-season, my 'low/regular' days are still a caloric surplus!! Higher days are just that much higher to peak insulin and replenish my glycogen storage.
I want to bulk, but not get ridiculously fat in the process. What types of carbs are best to incorporate into my diet?
I eat mostly oats, potatoes, and rice. I eat other carb types (like bread, sugars, etc) on my re-feed days. Keeping my macros in mind, I eat larger quantities of carbs pre and post-workout, and then around dinner!
How many grams of protein should I be eating?
General Rule is 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of Lean Body Mass (LBM). I go with 1.25 grams per 1 pound of lean body mass. Let’s say you have roughly 160 lbs of muscle, but weigh 190 lbs; disregard the fat weight and use just your lean body mass number.
example: 160 (LBM) x 1.25 (grams of Protein)= 200 grams of protein a day
What's the difference between a 'cheat meal' and a 'refeed'? How often do you have one?
A 'refeed' is a high carb day. Meals are calculated at higher macros (generally higher carb). I plan my refeeds on days that I'm training lagging body parts (chest, for me) or large muscle groups (quads/leg day). Refeed days for me, are every 4th day (following 3 moderate to lower carb days). On average, my refeed days are 200-300g carbs MORE than my lower days.
A 'cheat meal' is one untracked meal (pizza, burger, ice cream, etc.) that only replaces ONE regular meal for that day. I never skip my normal meals to 'make up for' the cheat meal.
In my off season I keep it pretty lax, I have a true cheat meal probably twice a week, sometimes more! I know people love to be shredded 24/7, but I’ve said it before - I’m in the business of GROWING! I make more progress in the gym when my body is happy and fed. That being said, I do keep a close eye on the scale and I'm very aware of how my body changes. If I start losing lines, or veins start to fade, then I cut back on the cheats. When I'm prepping for a show I do NOT incorporate cheat meals - only refeed days. Just personal preference!
Do you use IIFYM/Flexible dieting?
I DO! In the off season I'm able to relax and not worry too much, but when my macros need to be spot on during prep, I definitely utilize IIFYM - but only on my high-carb days (which is every 4th day)
Last updated: 1/27/2016
Can you rely on Protein Powder alone to reach your protein needs for the day?
Since I'm not paying for my supps out of pocket, I use them liberally. I know from experience (prior to being associated with ON) it's not always cost-effective to use protein powder over real food!! I personally drink 4 shakes a day, but real food/protein sources in between!
ON's products are high quality, the best in their field. So I don't worry about negative effects from added fillers/chemicals/etc that one might have to consider with a lesser-quality protein powder.
Which is better for a hard gainer: Whey Protein or Pro Gainer (from ON)?
Pro gainer has more calories than plain Whey Protein, so that would be the best choice!!
When should I take BCAA’s?
I take BCAA's when I wake up, pre and post workout, and before bed! Constantly in my system!
Does casein cause cancer?
You may have heard of 'The China Study', released in 2006; claiming that all animal based foods ranging from Chicken McNuggets to wild-caught salmon are responsible for modern ailments like heart disease and cancer. It promoted an all whole, unprocessed, plant-based diet to prevent or even cure such diseases. The highly debated study sparked rumors and created a number of myths about the 'hazards' of animal protein. What you should know is, high-quality protein promotes cell growth, no matter where it comes from. A deficiency in protein hinders the liver's ability to detoxify dangerous substances. Casein contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs and can't synthesize on its own. Casein is different from other proteins because of the way it will clot together, enabling it to break down more slowly in your body; releasing amino acids continuously into your bloodstream over several hours. Due to its slow digesting nature, your body will retain a higher amount of the nitrogen from the casein.
Do I need different digestion rate protein (isolate, hydrolyzed, casein etc) every day?
I love having different types of protein in my system! If you're on a budget, simple whey protein is just fine. Personally, I use a whey isolate pre-workout, hydrolyzed post-workout, and casein before bed!
What do you take pre and post workout?
The Supplement Stack table below shows the current supps I use. I eat oatmeal pre and post workout, it varies on high and low carb days.
What is your current Supplement Stack?
Within the table below, the Tribulus, HMB, Glutamine, BCAA, Fish Oil, ZMA, Hydro Whey, Isolate Whey, and Casein are all Optimum Nutrition Products. If you would like further information on these products click here.