Putting That Hardgainer Bull#%& To Rest

Flex Photos 001
Me @ 18, after a few months of hard training.


Quick disclaimer.  This is meant only for people looking to gain weight at all costs.  If that isn’t your goal, you won’t get much out of this.  Also, this is pretty much a rant. Enjoy.


I was thinking about this the other day and decided I’d may as well put my two cents into what I feel about ‘hardgainers.’  For those of you who don’t know what a hardgainer is, it’s an individual who apparently can’t gain weight even though they eat like a sumo wrestler.  It’s complete and utter nonsense propagated by skinny boys who need something to blame for the fact that their girlfriends are more jacked than they are despite the fact they’ve been busting their asses in the gym for the past three years.


That’s me on the left from 2004.  Looking incredibly small after a few months of hard training and pounding food.  I’d made a pretty good amount of progress, but I was still ridiculously small.  I was smaller than this to begin with, which is saying something… Mainly that I was your pretty typical “hardgainer.”  I looked like the small kid in your gym who can never seem to grow and only does bicep curls and bench press 3 times per week.

Me today.
Me today.

Fast forward to today, 9 years later and all my work has paid off.  Training is obviously a huge reason for my transformation, but this article will deal with the nutrition side of thing.  Believe me, if I still ate like I did before I started training, I would look nothing like I do now.


The old saying is true “you can’t out train a shitty diet.”  Which basically means you can have the most incredible training regime known to man, but if you are eating 1500 calories a day, you probably aren’t going to reap the benefits from the training.  Conversely, if you pounded back 4-5000 calories a day and had a sub-par training program you found in the latest Muscle & Fitness, you’d make some pretty decent progress.


Many self-proclaimed hardgainers are usually teenage boys and young guys.  I find it funny how they label themselves a hardgainer after a lack of results.  Here is a little known fact: everyone you see who is big, at some point had the same muscularity as you (some may have appeared larger, because they had some more bodyfat).  No one comes out of the womb looking like Ronnie Coleman.  EVERYONE is un-muscular at some point in their life.  Just because you added a scoop of protein to your diet of a sandwich and an apple 2x/day doesn’t mean you are going to turn a genetic anomaly.


My best friend and I were shopping the other day and this young man came up to us and asked us how we got so big.  We asked him about his diet and he said he has a scoop of protein everyday.  Guys, a scoop of protein is literally ~ 150 calories.  This won’t do anything to help you if you are 150 pounds.  I told him to take 2-3 scoops, with milk, olive oil, and peanut butter.  Depending on your serving size of each, you can easily make this shake over 1000 calories.  Hopefully I’ll see him down the line and he’ll be bigger and not claiming that suffers the dreaded hardgainer disease.


I honestly don’t consider myself by any means to be that big.  However, when you compare me to how I looked when I started lifting at 18, I have definitely put on some size.  I would say I looked like a hardgainer when I was 18.  I put in that work and gained a lot of weight.  I ate 6 meals per day religiously.  If you are 150 pounds now and think you are eating enough, you aren’t.  Plain and simple.  Try doubling what you currently eat and tell me that you can’t gain any weight.  It won’t happen.


If you really want to gain size and have had trouble in the past you need to do two things.  First, keep doing what you’re doing in the gym, because it’s not your training that is causing you to stay the same weight. Two, eat disgusting quantities of food.  You can do this in innumerable ways:


  •  Eat a cup or two of trail mix everyday
  • Get in 1-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight everyday
  • Add a few table spoons of olive oil to every meal and shake you consume
  • Increase feeding frequency drastically
  • Eat a few tablespoons of peanut butter at every meal
  • Eat all you can eat and don’t leave until you could not put another piece of food in your mouth if your life depended on it


These are just a few things I’ve done to help me and other people I’ve helped gain weight.  Believe me when I say you are not a hardgainer.  You just need to eat more food.  Some people may appear to gain easier than you because they have their diet in check, and you’re still eating a cold cut sandwich and a pear for lunch and dinner everyday.



5 Pieces of Horse Droppings I Used To Believe

If you’ve read my site at all you may be familiar with some this all ready.  However, I wasn’t always the incredibly smart gentleman who stands before you.  I, like you, am constantly learning.  Deleting things that don’t work from my mental inventory and adding new tidbits of information for me to test on clients and myself.  Here is a small sampling of 5 things I held as high as the Pope holds the word of God.


This blog post will discuss my thought processes of why I believed said “fact,” and what occurred in order for me to challenge these truths.


1. Nutrient Timing

For so many years I was fed this crap and ate it all up.  If I didn’t eat before training I’d have fodder to blame my shitty workout on something.  Get this, if didn’t have my post-workout meal or shake, I would feel like I wasted a training session… Brutal.  It even got to a point where I was drinking some nasty-ass concoction consisting of PowerAde, waxy maize starch, protein, and creatine.  It was god-awful.

After fasting for many, many months and being the strongest as I have ever been, I have come to the conclusion that nutrient timing is largely horeshit propagated by the nutrition industry for marketing purposes.  The sad thing is, I based much of my views off a book that was very well written, and had a few very notable authors (1 of whom has changed their stance).  This goes to show you that you need to keep your eyes open and experiment with new things.  It’s simple but not easy…



2. Multiple Meal Frequency To Stay Anabolic.

This is one that still pervades the fitness industry.  I’d assume the reason it’s still so rampant is in its’ bodybuilding roots.   Pretty much all bodybuilders are semi-psychotic about food.  They’ll package all their food so they don’t miss one meal, believing erroneously that they will lose all their gainz if they miss a 500 calorie meal and go without eating for more than 2 hours…  Just reading that makes me laugh, but it’s true.

I’ve currently bulked up to 230-234 while eating 2 meals per day.  I’m as strong as ever, and leaner than I’ve been before at the same bodyweight.  This is just me, so the skeptic in you could say that I am some sort of genetic mutant who can do weird shit without suffering the consequence a mere mortal would if they tried the same.  Well, look at Martin Berkhan’s clients, they’ve done excellent things.  I have a few clients who do this style of dieting and have enjoyed similar results as well.

Unless you enjoy being anal about eating on a timer and consuming small amounts of food frequently then mess around with you eating frequency to find out what works best for you.


3.  Full Body Training Reserved for The Weak and Small.

I feel I used to believe this because you’d rarely see a full-body split out of someone who was big and strong.  They’d be doing some sort of split, whether that was upper/lower or more of a traditional bodybuilder split.  The main guys who were singing the praises of training the entire body were mainly Chad Waterbury, Alwyn Cosgrove and a few others.  These guys weren’t exactly giving Ronnie Coleman or Ed Coan a run for their money in the size and strength department…

So I read, but largely ignored much of what they preached in favour of said upper/lower splits etc.  As I began training clients however, training the entire body made more and more sense to me.  If you can only make it to the gym 2x per week, there is no reason to not train the entire body during those sessions.  As I read more and more and began diving into information on Olympic weightlifting I realized that many of the strongest lifters trained the entire body (albeit with only a few exercises) incredibly frequently.

So I experimented.  I started squatting everyday.  I then began benching and overhead pressing multiple times per week, challenging the traditional weight training dogma.  To my amazement, I not only was able to train like this for a long time, but my lift all increased dramatically.  Sure I had to experiment with the exercise selection for full-body sessions (benching heavy more than 2x/week is a no go for me), but I found what worked and have been training this way for the past year religiously.


4. The Inability to Train a Lift Hard Multiple Times Per Week.

This pretty much ties into #3.  I had been a huge fan of Wendler’s 5/3/1 program.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with that program, you basically go hard for one set of squat, bench, deadlift, and overhead press once per week.  So you train one lift hard once per week.  I had been in this mindset for so long that training a lift hard (as in using a high percentage of my 1RM) multiple times per week seemed folly.

Lucky for me, I read an amazing well-written, unreleased book by Matt Perryman that was untitled.  I believe he wanted to call it “You Can’t Squat Everyday” or something along those lines.  That book really opened my eyes to what the body was capable of doing.  I looked for more and more resources to see if perhaps this training style could work for me.  I stumbled upon John Broz and the Bulgarian system.  Interestingly, perhaps the methods used by many countries much stronger than North America may have been born out of necessity according to Broz:

“Well, the way I really think about it is this: There are two forms of motivation. There’s motivation from desire, and there’s motivation from necessity, and if you’re coming from point of desire, it can always change — day by day, minute by minute: “Yeah, I want to lose weight, oh there’s a candy bar, it looks really good. Maybe I’ll eat this.” Your desire can fluctuate, so the problem with that is you float above or below the line of success all the time.

But, if you’re coming from a point of necessity, you can’t fail because you never see that as an option. You won’t allow yourself to fail. So when you look at things from point of necessity — “I must do this. I don’t have an option” — you can’t fail. Those people always succeed.

“I want, I want” is different than, “I need. I know I have to.” If you come from a poor country, and you must do this to support your family and have a place to live, or they’re going to execute your family or provide food to eat, you’re going to train when you don’t want to train. You’re going to hate your coach just like you hate your job, but you’re going to go to work and you’re going to try as hard as you can because you have to. It’s not a choice.

The problem here in this country is people are hobbyists. They want to be great: “I would love to do this. I want to make a team.” Yeah, you want. You don’t need to, and that’s the difference. If I asked you this simple question — it’s been all over the net, I think Bret Contreras even posted it in his article about me — but if you said, “Hey, if you were on an island, and everything was paradise and you could train whenever you wanted, how often would you train?” Everyone basically spouts the information that has been brainwashed with: “I would train three days a week. I would max once every so often.”

Now, you’re in the cell. You’re locked up. Everyone you love will be executed if you don’t hit a certain weight by a certain date. Are you going to still train three days a week?

“No, I’ll train every day.”


“Because, well, I have to.”

“Well, no shit.”

If you have to, now it’s different.”

John learned 20+ years ago to train a few lifts as hard as you can as often as possible and you may become a god among men.  He’s used these methods on some of his weightlifting athletes to put up some pretty good numbers.  Although the lifts I do are different, I felt the concept wasn’t domain dependent.  So I gave it a shot.  I trained a lift hard multiple times per week and it paid off.


5.  A Program Is Required to Succeed.

Please don’t take this, as “all programs are useless.”  They are largely useful for a ton of people who are new, or don’t feel like putting in time and effort into thinking about what they want to do in the gym.  Having a program tell you what to do, and when to do it can be great.  However, if experimentation is something you desire then don’t feel that you must always stick to a program in order to meet your goals.


For many years I followed strict programs.  I got really, really good results.  After time, I decided that I wanted to train like a mad man.  There really aren’t many programs that require the trainee to go into the gym and train hard 5-7 times per week.  So I began reading up on the Bulgarian method.  The interesting thing about the Bulgarian method is that there really isn’t a specific program.  It’s more of a series of general guidelines: train hard, train often, give a giant middle finger to overtraining, and repeat. Most Internet gurus would assume this wouldn’t work, well as you know, it most certainly does.


Unfortunately for me, there isn’t exactly a program that meets these guidelines.  Yes, Sheiko and other programs have crazy high amounts of volume, but the training frequency is only 3x/week.  So I found some middle ground.  The results were phenomenal:  huge PR’s in every lift that matters for me (squat, bench, and deadlift).  They keep going up as well.  I don’t follow anything specific; I just lift heavy, without failing and do it often.  I don’t worry about deloading, peaking or any of that and I have set PR’s on a near constant basis.


This method does require you to know a thing or two about training and have experience in the gym.  If you have these qualities, then don’t be afraid to take a plunge and seek out alternatives.  I strongly suggest checking out Chaos & Pain to help give ideas on what to do.  That site has taught me a lot about what other incredibly strong guys do, believe me, they do things a lot differently than you might expect.


How To Not Get Strong

If you’ve read Anti-fragile by Nassim Taleb, you will know that the last article or two I have written have actually been partly inspired by what I’ve learned in his book.  He talks about via negativa, which is a theological way of looking at what is good/desirable/positive by examining what something is not.  I’d like to discuss the steps one could take to the path of weakness (with reasons of course), so you can be sure to avoid these steps to get strong.


1. Don’t lift heavy weights.  Weak people stick with light weights.  Getting strong means getting jacked.  Being a jacked guy is out right now (see Bieber) and girls will turn into boydbuilders if they lift anything over 5 pounds (true story).


2. Never lift below 20 reps.  Lifting in low rep ranges does nothing but boost your ego.  You will probably injure yourself from lifting in lower rep ranges anyways, search pubmed for validation of this statement.  Also there is not way to get a decent pump if you lift in low rep ranges, so what’s the point?


3. Don’t progress.  NEVER increase the weight you lift, NEVER increase the sets you do.  Don’t even think about doing more work in less time.  If you try a rep PR you’d may as well jump off a bridge.


4. Don’t work hard.  If you’re in the gym, you should dress incredibly well, be well groomed and smell amazing.  You aren’t in there to sweat or any of that shit.  If you sweat at all you may as well go home because you might grow or gain strength, which we know is a huge no-no.


5. Perform only single joint exercises.  Listen, squats will mess up your knees, you may as well contact an orhopod if you are even thinking of squatting. Deadlifts will make your spine explode (I’ve seen it happen 12 times, literally).  If you ever want control a female on top of you don’t bench, you won’t be able to lift anything after your tricep is torn, your shoulders are frozen and your pec is completely torn off the bone.  If you ever want to be able to put the box of your favourite cereal up on your fridge or lift your hands above your head then don’t press anything overhead.  You will injure yourself doing these exercises.  My body aches from even writing this.



Ego Depletion, Willpower, and Food (addiction?)

Dat Willpower.

I’m currently reading a very interesting book that doesn’t really have much to do with fitness.  It’s called The Self Illusion by Bruce Hood.  I came over a very interesting sub chapter that talked specifically about ego depletion, I have heard of this term before somewhere, but never got a chance to really explore any of the research based around it.



You may have heard the current cliche ‘the brain is like a muscle.’  It technically isn’t (as it’s made as fat), but in terms of physiology, both muscles and the brain run from glucose.  So the brain, like muscles, only have a certain amount of output to give out before succumbing to fatigue.  This has been researched in the field of addiction.


Matt Field has researched the interplay of impulsivity and cognitive processes.  Bruce Hood explained an interesting study by Field at a presentation (from The Self Illusion).  Subjects were to watch a crazy Japanese horror movie called Audition.  Half the audience was to watch the movie without showing emotion, turning away, or showing any disgust to the gory parts of the movie.  The other half was instructed to act as they normally would when watching crazy shit!  After the movie the participants filled out a bogus questionnaire, then were allowed to drink as much beer as they pleased as a reward for partaking in watching a horror movie (sign me up).  The subjects who didn’t show emotion drank half as much as the audience who cringed and gasped at the brutality of the movie.  The studies’ conclusion was that individuals who showed emotion, sapped their willpower and massacred booze instead of drinking in moderation.


Field believes that self-control and willpower is an important foundation for the development of addiction.  If you are continuously ‘sapping stores’ from the self-control/willpower resources, negative consequences will show up in other areas, such as addiction to drugs, alcohol, food, etc.


So what does all this have to do with eating?  Well, there are many events happening to you on a daily basis.  Any kind of stressor, whether that be work-life; marital problems; attempting to conform; watching a scary movie etc, can and will sap your willpower.  This may result in you lacking the willpower to stay true to your current diet, or exercise regimen.


Habits and Environmental Factors

I’ve talked about habits in the past.  This ties directly into changing habits for a healthier lifestyle.  When most people attempt to diet, they decide to all-together stop eating something.  That right there is an exercise in self-control/willpower in regards to what you eat regularly.  Which is why I don’t think (there are a few exceptions) that you should fully cut out anything from your diet.  Allow yourself to consume what you want, albeit in smaller doses or less frequently.  This way you are killing two birds with one stone.  You’re eating more healthier foods, and not sapping all your willpower by doing it.  Which then allows you to stay on the boat rather than fall off to a cold, lonely death (which is where most diets end up).


My spectrum of eating properly has altered drastically from when I was younger.  For me, it feels odd not consuming a crap load of protein with every meal.  It seems odd that some people consume dessert every night.  Since I’m healthy, these are good viewpoints to have.  Although I never really stress about food, I’d say it’d be healthier to stress about not getting enough protein in then stressing about not have cookies and ice cream in your kitchen.  


These are the things I try to teach clients and readers.  To attempt to create new eating heuristics that will last for hopefully a lifetime and not 1 week.  Ideally I’d love for these new habits to form as quickly as possible.  However, as Dr. Yoni Freedhoff pointed out in a recent article, there really is an incredibly large variance in the time it takes for people to form new habits.  Dr. Freedhoff showed research which displayed a period of 18 to 254 days for a habit to form “automatically.”


The important thing to remember, is try and stick with a new habit for an extended period of time.  A habit might also be an environment factor that will suck less willpower out of you.  This is conjecture, but I would venture to say that decreasing psychological stress could also help aid you in having willpower to eat better rather than wasting it on being upset  (or add negative emotion here: ____).  A stressed out individual might even benefit from seeing a physiologist or even a psychiatrist to help them with whatever issues they may have.



If you have ever reduced a stressor in your life and it’s helped you improve your image of yourself, whether it was through eating better or exercising more, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.




Guru’s, Arguing, and Biases.

This is something that was on my mind and I felt like writing my feelings down as one or two people may find them entertaining.  Many people in the fitness industry enjoy taking a firm stance on their beliefs.  Whether that be “no one should ever do dips,” “don’t eat fructose,” “don’t eat less than 6 times per day.” Their Procrustean bed seems very comfortable.


One can go on pubmed and search for whatever they want to prove their point, simple confirmation bias.  Even without reading research, everyone suffers from confirmation bias.  If you want to find a study that concludes “training >4x per week led to an increased chance of overtraining syndrome,” I’m sure you could find something.  As a matter of fact, I just typed in “training frequently leads to overtraining syndrome” into Google and generated 4610 results (I’m sure 5% of them are even relevant, but you get the point).  Meanwhile another person can pour over this research, such as  Matt Perryman, and have a whole section of his site devoted to how much you can train without becoming overtrained.


Who do you trust, the researchers’ conclusion, or an individual who reads multiple pieces of research to come to their conclusion?  Due to confirmation bias, the argument over who you should or should not believe can be argued ad nauseam.  There is so much that we don’t know, and to pretend that we do is human nature.  We are built to put facts into place, even if they don’t actually exist. Our mind will simply make inferences for us in order to make sense of shit.


Perhaps you are thinking about losing weight.  You search google for information.  Perhaps low-carbohydrate diet comes up first, you click on it and get to reading.  You like what you read, you think to yourself that would be easy and it would probably work.  Three months later you lost 40 pounds and now you are telling everyone to stop eating carbohydrates to lose weight.  Someone you talk to tells you “that carb restriction is all horseshit, you just have to lower your fat intake.”  Another person tells you “screw that, I love my carbs, I just eat a calorie restriction regardless of the macronutrient composition and I can still lose weight.”  You argue with them incessantly, e-mailing research and anecdotal evidence and you probably won’t change the mind of your antagonist.


So you think to yourself “I don’t get these people.  I ate less carbs and lost weight.  Why would anyone want to lose weight any other way?”  Perhaps you are forgetting that not everyone wants to remove their favourite food and beverages over a period of time in order to lose weight.  They think they can lose weight while still consuming “unhealthy” foods.  The hypothetical low-carb guy can easily say ‘bye’ to these foods without any second thoughts, others can’t.  Learn to live with it!


Apparently, some individuals can’t accept that in the fitness and nutrition field, there are more than one ways to go about things.  There really is!  Coach A might say you can’t train more than 3x per week and boast of a legion of lifters who have gained strength and size.  Coach B might say that you should train everyday and has a small team of athletes who are headed to the Olympics.  Their training is completely different, but both groups are getting results.  Sure the Coach B could have a dick measuring contest with Coach A because his athletes are going to compete against the worlds best whereas his (Coach A’s) athletes are simply weekend warriors who just want to increase their chances of getting laid.


This doesn’t mean that either coach is “right,” they’re using training styles for a different demographics, and it’s working.  Even within a demographic, you might find completely contrasting training methods, and yet they both work!  It’s like nutrition coaches, coach A might have his clients eat 2x/day and coach B has his clients eat 6x/day.  They both have their star clients who lose a bunch of weight, the normal results client, and the client in which nothing works.


What is the point of all this jibber-jabber you ask?  People on the internet need to learn that their Guru or whatever, isn’t God (crazy proposition, I know).  They don’t know everything, they don’t know THE way, and their way isn’t THE only way.  If someone claims these things they’re trying to make money from you, have an enormous ego, are being intentionally ignorant, or some combination of the three.




A Quick Guide to Squatting Daily (Or Just More Frequently)

  I’ve written quite a bit about squatting frequently, but I haven’t really covered much of the specifics of how to implement squatting daily (or just more frequently) over a time period.  Going from squatting once per week, to 7 days a week is a reasonably large shock to your system.  It definitely can be done, but some degree of moderation is needed in order to not feel like a a piece of ‘used’ gum on the bottom of someones shoe.  This guide will show you a few steps you can take in order to squat daily.  From here on out I will refer to squatting daily as merely squatting no less than 3x/week.  Most people would be in shock and awe if you told them you squatted heavy 3x/week, 7x/week is usually thought of as complete madness.


Deadlift and Bench Daily Too?!

First off, some more information on deadlifting everyday in case you are interested.  Bob People’s deadlifted everyday, his best digits were 725 @ a bodyweight of 180 pounds.  Insane.   At one point this is what he was doing on a daily basis for deadlifts: “Dead lift 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600 all three repetitions each then did 660 once for a new personal record.” (Reprinted from April/May 1952 Issue of Iron Man)   Did I mention he was a farmer, who did manual labour on a daily basis?  I personally have never tried this method, but after deadlifts, I’m usually pretty damn sore the next day.  Perhaps I could train myself to deadlift more frequently, but since it takes about 5 sets just to warm-up for my work sets, I’d be having very long training sessions.


Arguable the best femal powerlifter of all time, Bev Francis would bench everyday.  She’d use a variety of set/rep schemes, then go and crush shit in competition.  The point I’m trying to make is that people have shown the ability to train heavy movements on a daily basis for a long, long time.  I leave you the choice of what to train frequently on.


Personally, I feel that training heavy (I’m referring to above 85% of you 1RM) daily on the bench and deadlift probably would be tough and incredibly time consuming .  You could probably do it, but you’d have to drastically reduce your perceived 1RM in order to make lifts using that high percentage on a daily basis.  I’ve tried benching heavy 3x per week… My shoulders gave me the middle finger and I had to stop benching all together for about a month. Since switching to 2x/week, my shoulders have not bothered me at all.  This means 2x/week works for me.  Others may be able to get away with more, but from my experiences, I wouldn’t really suggest benching heavy more than 2x/week, although speed work could be added if you really wanted to increase frequency for a bigger lift.


As for the deadlift, depending on how sore you get would largely determine what kind of frequency you could use.  Recovery is an adaptation, so you could adapt your recovery to an increased frequency.  If anyone has tried deadlifting (heavy) more than 2x/week let me know how that worked for you in the comments section.  Konstantin Konstantinovs, one of the best deadlifters in the world deadlifts extremely heavy 2-4x/week.  He mixes in pulling off blocks, speed pulls and deficit deadlifts in as well.  KK also squats everyday by the way…



Anyways, I’ve explained that I prefer to deadlift 2-3x week because my deadift sessions can take a while, and I have other shit that I like to get done.  If I could get paid to lift weights, I’d probably work up to deadlifting everyday, but until that happens, I’ll stick with what’s working for me.


Back To Dem Squats

Now, the squat is a lift that people can recover from much quicker than either the deadlift or bench.  I have witnessed this from numerous clients, friends, and colleagues who have messed around with higher frequency squatting.  At first, one may or may not recover well (read: heavy soreness), however, after a short time (a few weeks) this soreness seems to dissipate.  Your recovery ability is improving, and your body is getting ready for another bout of squatting.  Bam.


There are a couple ways to start squatting daily.  You can take the conservative approach (which is my recommendation) or the shotgun approach.  Depending on how nutty you are, I will let you make that decision.  Just be warned, that taking more of a shotgun approach will most likely make you walk like you just dropped the soap last night in a high security prison…


I suggest that you eventually work up to what would be perceived by most to be a shotgun approach, by starting with a conservative approach.  Squatting daily will have it’s ups and downs as your body is not always going to be ‘tuned’ to squat your 1RM everyday.  Some days, you might work up to a heavy single that would be a PR.  The next days you might struggle with your warm-ups and decide that a lower number should be used for your max set.


Here is an example from one of my clients squat session: 135×3, 225×3, 275×1, 295×1, 315×1, 325×1 (tMax), 225×2,2,2,2.  The next session, he feels a little worn down, I can see his rep speed isn’t quite as fast as usual and his depth is lacking a little bit, here is what might occur: 135×3, 225×3, 275×1, 295×1 (tMax), 225×2,2,2,2,2.  I decreased his tMax because he was feeling a little drained, I slightly increased his back-off sets to make up for it.  Some days he might feel like complete crap, and I’ll either just have him work to a lower tMax, or just do back-off sets or speed work.  There really isn’t a set program.  The bulgarians didn’t have a set program either (which is what this is based off by the way)


The Bulgarians, who massacred everyone in weightlifting are currently ranked 4th overall in Olympic medals.  Behind the Soviet Union, China and the US, countries that are literally 100’s of times larger in population than Bulgaria.  Anyways, the main gist of their “program” is squat up to a tMax (which stand for training max, which is lower than competition max.  Training max was a weight that a lifter could hit on a daily basis.  If they felt good one day they’d lift more than their tMax, if they felt like garbage, they’d lift less), then doing back off sets.  There was never a set amount of training percentages or even sets and reps.  You went by autoregulation, which is “a process within many biological systems, resulting from an internal adaptive mechanism that works to adjust (or mitigate) that system’s response to stimuli.”  (Wikipedia)


The modern equivalent of the Bulgarian method has been popularized by John Broz.  He would have his star athletes work to a max, then do “at least 30 reps in either sets of 2, 3, or 5.” (Broz Interview on his star athlete Pat Mendes from Bodybuilding.com **Side note: LOL**)  This is eventually what Mendes was able to do:


Now, the Bulgarian method mentioned above would be perceived as the shotgun approach.  Like I said earlier, perhaps you might consider working up to this rather than going all out to begin with.  Here is what I suggest:

  • Implement squatting into every training session.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be back squats, it can be goblet squats, sumo squats, high-bar squats, low-bar squats, paused squats, box squats, squatting off pins, whatever really tickles your fancy.
  • Start with one heavy day and keep the other days moderate.  I won’t go into particular intensity levels, just use your head.  Day one might be squatting to a tmax, the other days might be working up to a tMax – 50lbs.
  • Use speed days as well if you wish.
  • Pair squats with another exercise to make the session quicker if time is an issue.
  Let’s take a look at what you would do over time to progress to more of a shotgun approach:
  • Begin hitting your tMax multiple times per week.
  • Add backoff sets
  • Increase your tMax – 50 to something like tMax – 25, then work down some more.  Or if this makes more sense: increase the  weights of your lighter tMax (but still try and be conservative).
  • Keep on taking steps until you are hitting a tMax for all your sessions followed by however many back off sets you feel the need for (which can honestly be from 0-20)
  Now you’re a squatting machine, who is hitting a tMax daily. Let’s go over what can be done when you are either moving the bar super fast, or super slow.  We can also cover how to increase your tMax over time to get a bigger squat:
  • If you’ve been hitting your tMax for a few workouts and its starting to move faster, or you are feeling like it’s just getting easy, it may be time to increase your poundages.  I usually like 10 pound jumps, but there is no reason you can’t try going smaller, with 5 lbs.  The time you choose to stick with a tMax is completely dependant on performance and enironmental factors.  There is no set time limit where you are somehow compelled to lift more weight if you aren’t ready.
  • If the weight is moving slowly one day, you simply lower your tMax for that particular training session.  The next day, you will be looking to hit the same tMax as usual.
  • If you are finding you are constantly unable to hit your tMax, you may need to lower your tMax, hit that daily until it get’s easy and then progress again.  Don’t let your ego make you do stupid things.
  I didn’t cover any overtraining business because you know what I think about it.  I will probably go over the overtraining fairy tale in the near future.  Instead of complaining about how it’s not possible for a drug free lifter to squat this much, I have this to say to you: I have been doing it completely drug free for the past 9 months, I have friends and clients who have done it drug free as well and not experienced anything except the occasional staleness.  So instead of complaining about how this won’t work, go out and try it for a month and then make your decision from there.
Get squatting.


Strempf: Intensity and Volume.

Perhaps you are new to the game of lifting heavy shit.  You’ve seen some programs which culminate in one all-out set, and other which call for multiple sets with sub-maximal weights.  Why are people using two seemingly different methods to add strength and size?  This article will help explain the differences of using intensity and volume in a training program, and allow you to get a better understanding of how each can be used properly to gain said size and strength.



When most people think of intensity they think of the literal definition of it: the quality or state of being intense.  So the way most people construe intensity when it comes to a training program is how hard a set is to come to completion.  For instance, if Powerlifter Joe does a set of squats up to 20 reps and literally shits himself on the 20th rep, that would probably be considered intense by most, no?

The intensity that I will be referring to from hear on out is a different kind of intensity.  I’m talking about intensity in terms of a % of your 1RM (one rep-max).  So if you Joe was using 90% of his 1RM, it would be more  intense than if he used 80% of his 1RM, got it?

Many successful programs have taken advantage of this method for many, many years.  The programs that you might be most familiar with would be Westside and 5/3/1.  Although these programs are actually very different, they both use intensity at their core.  They both require you to max out on set using a high percentage (<85%) of your 1RM.

The way most people progress on a program will be based on either increasing your reps with a heavy weight, or increasing reps from week-to-week, month-to-month, or even year-to-year.  For instance, on 5/3/1, you cycle through using various percentages of your 1RM for one month.  After that cycle you increase your 1RM on the lifts and you lift more weight during your next training cycle.  The system works, and it works very, very well.



No, I am not talking about how loud the music is in your gym.  I’m talking about the total amount of weight lifted for a given exercise on a given training day.  For instance, if I went to the gym, and squatted 200 pounds for 10 sets of 3, my volume would be weight * total reps, which would be 200 * 30 = 6000lbs.  If next week you lift 6200lbs you know you have progressed.  If in a year you are lifting 10000 pounds in a squat session you know you are really destroying shit.

Please don’t be put off by these numbers.  I use them merely to represent how volume works.  I’ve been using volume for a lot of my lift lately, and I never track my total volume.  I prefer using an easy, linear form of increasing volume, such as the Hepburn Routines.

A set and rep scheme while using volume might look like 10 sets of 1 with a weight you know you can lift for 3 reps.  You’d do your warm-up sets, then get to lifting a bunch of singles until you complete all ten of them.


An Example Of Each

Here is a intensity session:

Barbell Squats: 135×5, 225×3, 315×1, 365×1, 405×5.  This is assuming that 405 is ~90% of their 1RM.  The trainee did as many reps as possible with 90% of their 1RM.  The sets before 405, are just some arbitrary warm-up sets.


A volume session:

Barbell Squats: 225×3, 315×3, 365×1, 405×1,1,1,1,1, 365×2,2.  The trainee in this example goes somewhat by feel.  405 feels nice, and they get in “practice” with that weight.  Maybe he feels strong on his next squat session, so he decides to do singles with 415.  The time after that, his warm-up weights feel slow and grindy, so he just sticks with some doubles at 365.

So as you can see, there are differences.  Training with volume equals more total sets.  Intensity usually means that you work up to a top set, give it your all (may or may not be to failure) then move on to the next exercise.  Keep in mind that with smart programming, you can still get through a volume session in a quick time by using lower rest periods.


Pros and Cons Of Intensity vs. Volume Heavy Programs


  • Quicker to complete unless you take long rest periods.
  • Less sets means less chance for injury.
  • Allows you to put all your focus in one set rather than spreading it over multiple sets.
  • Allows more work for weak points/body parts.
  • Gives you the opportunity to use a wider variety of exercises.
  • Doesn’t give very much allowance for practicing form with a heavy weight.
  • Requires longer recovery periods between training the same lift/body part (for you bodybuilders).



  • Allows for more practice with heavier weights.  This builds new neural pathways, allowing you to become more proficient at a given movement.
  • Allows you to train a given lift more frequently.
  • Builds up your work capacity.
  • Less exercises are used when your are using high volume.
  • Can increase chances of injury as you have more opportunities to injure yourself when you train more.
  • More time consuming.
  • Drains more calories (which may or may not be beneficial depending on your goals).
  • Can be more difficult to plan your programming to peak for an event.
  • May lead to staleness faster than using a more intensity based program.


I personally have used both intensity and volume on myself and my clients to get great results.  I’ve been using mainly volume the past 8 months or so to build up my lifts for powerlifting.  I really like high volume when teaching people how to do basic movements like squats.  Practicing squats make better squats.  I do occasionally perform a top set on deadlifts every now and then so I guess you could say I mix the two, although I am heavily weighted towards volume.

From a purely anecdotal point of view, I have noticed pretty much no difference in terms of mass gain while using both methods.  When I first started training, I would notice many very strong and big dudes suggesting things like 5×10 with ‘straight weight.’  This means to that you use the same weight across all sets (a more volume intensive set).  I didn’t like this because I felt that I couldn’t lift a heavy enough weight over 5 sets to elicit hypertrophy.  I finally just gave it a shot, and it works like a charm.  So feel free to use both methods for gaining mass.

Hopefully you will be able to figure out what would work better for your goals and lifestyle and implement one or even a mix of these two styles of training.  Let me know which you prefer, or what has worked better for you.  Also, feel free to troll 😉

Glycemic Index Woes

The glycemic index has been a popular tool for years.  Yet a fair amount of research has revealed significant holes in it’s utility.  Can the GI be trusted to aid in actually controlling your blood sugar?  I won’t cover how this effects body composition because you know my stance on this subject. (TL;DR carbs are no more fattening than fats or protein)

I shall cover 2 main issues with the GI.

  1. How do foods with varying GI’s affect the glycemic response?
  2. How accurate is the GI?


GI and Glucose Stuff

I came over a new study that examined the glycemic response to fast and slow digesting carbohydrates.  A fast digesting carbohydrate, according to the GI will result in a large glycemic response.  A slow digesting carbohydrate, according to the GI, results in a slower glycemic response.  This is what the GI says.  What does good ole science say?

The researchers sought out to find out if fast and slow digesting carbohydrates actually resulted in a different glycemic response.  They tested 10 healthy dudes.  So one could bitch incessantly how this doesn’t apply to:

  1. Children
  2. Middle-aged
  3. Elderly
  4. Obese
  5. Females
  6. The list goes on and on.
  So if you’re on that list, you better close this window because it doesn’t apply to you! (I keed, I keed)

The study used enriched wheat bread or pasta.  The researchers looked how these foods affected ‘rate of appearance of exogenous glucose (RaE), endogenous glucose production, and glucose clearance rate (GCR). In addition, postprandial plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, glucagon, and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) were analyzed.’

According to the GI the results would be probably be something like this: Pasta has a higher GI than Wheat bread according to the study, as the rate in which glucose was present in the blood was faster in bread.  Since the pasta has a higher GI, you would expect a larger spike in glucose as it enters the bloodstream.

There were obviously other factors at work though, as this isn’t what happened.  The two foods actually had similar glycemic responses.  How can this be?

Since the low glycemic foods elicited a lower insulin response the GCR glucose clearing rate  (from the blood stream) was slower than the rapid digesting carbohydrate.  The fast digesting carbohydrate had a faster GCR because it had a higher insulin response.

Even though a given carbohydrate can cause varying GIP and insulin secretions a similar glycemic response can occur.


GI Accuracy

Whatever ‘bro’

The second part of this will be shorter.  In my first blog entry I wrote about how different GI’s will have different values on different indices.  I mentioned that I found the GI of carrots on two different indices.  One had them valued at 47 and the other at 90.  That’s a very large difference.

Another study looked at this very subject.  They found that whole meal GI values were 22-50% overestimated over the actual value.  GI for individual foods were also overestimated.  So take that for what it’s worth… Which is a lot by the way.


The lack of accuracy in the GI has implications on the GL as well.  GL is sometimes looked as a more “polished” version of the GI, as it takes into account the volume of food needed to illicit a blood glucose spike.  For instance, watermelon has a reasonably large GI score of ~70 (give or take 35, heheh) but the GL is only 4(this number would also be skewed).   So watermelon isn’t all that bad, because you’d have eat a disgusting amount of it in order to actually raise your blood glucose.

Yet, if the GI is not accurate then GL will not be accurate as well.  So using these charts is really quite fruitless.

Oh and by the way, GI will be different for people with differing insulin responses.  So peoples’ glucose will be transported out of the blood stream faster than others, even with the same food.  So all in all, the GI is pretty much.. Meh.

What To Do With This

There are two major knocks against the GI. Does this make the GI useless?  I personally don’t use the GI, glycemic load (GL), or insulin index (II).  If you just focus on eating whole foods rather than the usual crap that comes in a box, you will probably have the same results as following a damn index.

The researchers in the first study cited concluded “These types of starchy products cannot be identified by using the glycemic index and therefore another classification system may be necessary.”  Another useless classification system is not needed because it will be another set of particulars that nobody will follow.

I’m not an RD, so I can’t dispense information about helping people control their diabetes.  I can however give my opinion based on what I’ve seen from research.  I have yet to see a low carbohydrate diet that didn’t drastically reduce fasted blood glucose levels.  Yet for some reason, RD’s never suggest these kinds of diets to their clients.  I have no idea why that is.

In terms of fat loss, I’d guide you to this.   You can eat carbohydrates and lose weight.  No question about that.

If you’re trying to gain muscle mass…  You know what to do… Consume carbohydrates, all of them, in the entire world.




My First Powerlifting Meet

Perhaps some of my readers have above average strength, and you want to showcase your talents in competition?  Well powerlifting is where you’d probably be best off doing this, unless you lift crazy heavy, odd shaped objects (which would make strongman you sport of choice)  I’ll discuss my first meet, as well as the little things that can provide you with somewhat of an edge if you decide to compete at some point.

I got to the meet way too early because of a registering mess up on my part.  Live an learn.  It’s probably a good idea to still get there a little early, so you can load up on carbs and get your weight up a bit before the action begins.  I didn’t eat too much, but I didn’t want to have an uneasy stomach going into any of my lifts.  Although puking on the spotters and crowd would be highly entertaining for spectators (who would not be affected by said puke) I decided to play it safe and just get a little bit of food in me that I knew would agree.

I had some fruit and some PB&J’s.  Easy, and delicious.  I also had a Powerade and a bottle of water.  Pretty small amount of fluid I’d say. Yet I urinated no less than 30 times during the entire competition.  It was annoying as hell.  I guess my nerves got the best of me in the urination department…

The first lift was the squat.  I opened with 195kg and it was incredibly easy.  This is literally warmup weight for me during my daily squatting sessions.  I chose this lightweight as an opener because I wanted to makes sure that I made my first lift and made it easily.


As you can see it was incredibly easy, but being a complete newb to the rules of powerlifting, I completely forgot to wait for the rack command.  Three red lights and no lifts.  I wasn’t phased by this as it was incredibly easy, I just made a silly error that I will never make again.

My second squat attempt at 200kg was also a cinch.It wasn’t a grinder in any way, shape, or form.  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4EDThCopho&list=UU9lXiihQyH_Bg25E2XVR4tw&index=8&feature=plcp[/youtube]

My third attempt at 205 was pretty conservative as well.  There was definitely a little bit of grinding on the way up, but I could’ve gone with more.  Oh well, got three whites and moved on to the bench press.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g0Cn9LQHRY&list=UU9lXiihQyH_Bg25E2XVR4tw&index=7&feature=plcp[/youtube]

I knew going in that my bench would pretty much be complete crap.  This is the lift that by far needs to be improved the most.  I had hit 335 for a single in training in the summer.  So I thought that I’d be good for 350ish during the meet.  However, my bench training leading up the meet just wasn’t very good and I knew that 350 was probably out reach.

My opener was easy and my second attempt wasn’t very hard either.  Looking back, I probably should’ve attempted 147kg instead of 150, I probably would’ve made that, oh well!  My upper back was cramping like it never has before after my first attempt.  That arch can be killer.  Luckily I only had to bench three damn times.

[youtube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6cAlzb0FO4&list=UU9lXiihQyH_Bg25E2XVR4tw&index=6&feature=plcp[/youtube]



I was a little concerned for the deadlift, because my back was seriously sore.  My upper back took a pounding from arching for the bench, and my lower back was definitely feeling the effects from squatting.  After resting for an hour and putting some tiger balm on there, I felt much better.  My warm-ups felt fast and light, so I was back to being a happy camper.

I forgot to bring baby powder for my legs and arms.  It makes the bar and your body slippery, so if the bar or your arms touch any part of your body, there is minimal friction to overcome.  Luckily, powerlifters are very generous and I was able to use some from the other gentleman in my weight class.

My first two attempts were very smooth.  My second attempt was a PR.  I was planning on attempting 650lbs for this meet, but decided I’d rather go for 290kg.

[youtube]  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjcbhBD4ATg&list=UU9lXiihQyH_Bg25E2XVR4tw&index=4&feature=plcp[/youtube]



As you can see from the video above, I had a slight pause around the lockout of my deadlift.  So when I put the bar back down, I saw one white light, and one red light.  I needed 2 whites for the lift to be considered good.  After a slight pause I got my white light!

Takeaways from the meet:

  • When people say powerlifters are nice, it’s true.  Everyone was very supportive and wanted everyone to succeed.  I didn’t see any huge egos or anything like that.
  • Equipment that you should bring that you maybe wouldn’t think of: baby powder, tiger balm, extra shirt, shorts, long sleeve shirt or hoodie.  Staying warm was important during the whole meet.  You don’t want to be cold right before you max out…
  • If you invite someone, tell them it’s going to take a while.  This is how meets are, they’re long and can at times be boring.  All of the weight classes are put together, so there are pretty long waits between lifts.  At nationals, they split the event into four days, which makes the wait times much shorter.  Excellent.
  • Open with a light weight.  I feel that hitting your opener is vital.  It ensures you don’t bomb out of the meet, and gives you confidence for your next attempt.  If you don’t hit your opener because you fail the lift (not a technical error) then you will probably have to take the same weight again.  This means that you effectively get only two attempts, as one was wasted.
  • Talk to other competitors.  They know all the technical rules and are pretty much all willing to help in anyway.  Since I was new, I had a lot of questions.  They were all answered easily by more experienced lifters.


I ended up winning my weight class.  Since I totalled 640kg (1408lbs) I qualified for Canadian Nationals.  They’re being held at the Richmond Oval this year.  I’m super excited to compete on a National level.  Looking at the numbers of some these guys, I don’t know how well I’ll place, but it’ll be another great experience.  I got second place in the best lifter award for the open category.  The best lifter is judged by a Wilks coefficient: “The Wilks Coefficient or Wilks Formula is a coefficient that can be used to measure the strength of a powerlifter against other powerlifters despite the different weights of the lifters.”  I lost by one point!

I had a great time and I am definitely excited to compete in Nationals coming in March.


5 Things I’ve Learned in 2012

I’ve never really wrote one of these before so I’m giving it a shot.  I know you will find these points very interesting.  You will also be able to walk away with some information that might help you reach your goals quicker.  Read on…


1. Carbs are king when it comes to weight gain, size gains, and strength gains.

If you are looking to gain weight you need to consume carbohydrates.  Paul Carter at Lift-Run-Bang talks about this consistently and I completely agree on this.  No bodybuilder or large person that you or I have ever seen did so without eating carbohydrates.  I’m sorry if I insulted the Paleo’s who read this (of which there is probably 1), but it’s true.

Current and Former NFL Superstars. If you think they skipped carbs to get their physiques, you’re nutso.

I recently heard that Arian Foster turned Vegan.  Although I don’t think Arian Foster has an incredibly impressive physique, he definitely has some reasonable size going on.  He built that eating meat, not being vegan.  I get sick of hearing that ‘so-and-so doesn’t eat meat or doesn’t eat carbs.’  You know what, they sure as hell ate meat and carbs in order to achieve their physique.  Now perhaps they can remove these foods and maintain what they worked hard for.


I can tell you that I have had a lot of experience with this over the past little while.  Eating food just puts you in a more anabolic state.  It allows you to lift more, which in turn will allow you to grow.  Constantly restricting calories can work, but if you simply increase calories, you will get stronger much faster.  



2. Squatting a lot, and I mean A LOT makes you a better squatter.

This makes a lot of sense, yet somehow get’s lost on people.  If you want to get better something you do it more, not less.  Common sense, I say!

You want to have a big squat, you want to be leaner, you want to be stronger?  Squat more.  Is there research supporting that squatting everyday burns more fat than squatting less frequently?  None that I’ve seen.  I have however, read enough anecdotal reports to at least peak my interest.

I’ve written at length about high frequency squatting.  For people who think that’s it’s impossible for a drug free human to do… I don’t really know what to tell you other than you’re flat out wrong.  A good friend of mine and me (who are both drug free) have been squatting daily for the past 8 months or so.  Never have either of us have ever been stronger.

I don’t have any joint pain, nor do I exhibit any signs of the vaunted overtraining syndrome.  Yes I experience staleness every now and then, but I just push through it, and PR’s just start pouring in.



3. Too many trainers worry too much about things they don’t need to be worrying about.

Dissecting whether or not their client should overhead press is a prime example.  Just get your clients doing something productive.  Worrying about every little thing is as pointless as the sequel to Silent Hill.

Your clients come to your for fitness.  They don’t come to get a spa treatment (although some I’m sure do, luckily I don’t have any of these clients though).  I’m not propagating doing crazy stupid shit for 100’s of reps either.  That’s just silly.  I’m saying that you shouldn’t think that if your client overhead presses or does a deadlift that they’re all of a sudden going to turn to dust.



4. You do not need to be genetically gifted or using a wide variety of mexican engineered pharmaceuticals in order to train with high frequency.

This falls in line with point numero dos.  Does gear help you recover better?  Yes.  Does that mean it’s impossible (without drugs) to train frequently and allow your body to I don’t know… Adapt!? We adapt to imposed demands.  Face it.  Case closed.



5. You don’t need to a crap load of different exercises to achieve gains in strength.

Assistance exercise can be useful in many instances.  However, being a pedant about assistance is as useful as the shake weight:


In other words… Not very useful.

Has your bench stalled for the past three months?  Have you been doing board presses, floor presses, tricep extension, upper back work?  Still not seeing any improvements?

Maybe you should focus on the bench press.

Stop worrying about so much about how to stimulate the long head of your triceps to increase your bench and just bench.  Improve your form, practice the lift by increasing frequency or volume,  eat food and it will increase.



6. Lifting loads that a grandma would find easy can actually be beneficial.

Yea I said five and theres actually six!  It’s my blog though, and I am a Boss, so deal with it.

You definitely know me as someone who likes to lift heavy.  I think it’s pretty much the best thing for me in the gym.  I think others should lift heavy as well.

So why am I suggesting that you lift light weights?!

A couple good reasons:

– Injury prevention: my joints have felt amazing since doing this.

– It’s fun and feels good.  It’s nice to do things that you actually want to do in the gym, so treat yourself after you put in your work on the hard parts.

– It even has some research backing it up.  This study concluded that lifting loads at 30% of your 1Rm resulted in similar hypertrophy to lifting loads at 80%.  Strength gains were not very good in the 30% group, so obviously you don’t want to be using this on your big compound exercises.


One Love.