Results 1 to 15 of 136
02-10-2009, 12:54 AM #1
Musclemag Feature about FST-7
Written by Administrator
Monday, 01 December 2008 09:58
If you’re Hany Rambod, the 33-year-old resident of San Jose whose roster of personal-training clients includes over a dozen professional bodybuilders, it’s results that matter. In fact if you don’t make muscles grow, you literally don’t bring home a paycheck. Hany insists the muscle-building process — or lack thereof for many of us — is really quite simple, and growth is predicated on fascia tissue that encases the muscle. “Fascia that surrounds the muscle can act to limit its size,” he says. The fact is that skeletal muscle tissue is enclosed in this sheath of dense connective tissue. Fascia primarily protects your muscles and helps maintain their positioning, however, Hany contends that it can also hinder your muscles’ ability to grow. “The thicker the sheath is, the greater the restriction on each muscle’s growth potential,”he says. Conversely, as Hany explains, the exact opposite is also true when the sheath is very thin. The density of this sheath is ultimately determined by your individual genetics, but that doesn’t mean it has to limit your growth potential and leave you doomed for lagging bodyparts. The question, then, is how can you overcome the restrictions in place from what your mom and dad gave you? After years of personal research and a great deal of trial and error, Hany says the answer to breaking through muscle resistance lies in a program he developed called Fascial Stretch Training (FST-7). He’s got more than a few IFBB pro physiques who can attest to its results — think Ray Arde, Bill Wilmore and Troy Brown, just to name a few. FST-7 encompasses several factors both in and out of the gym. Here’s a breakdown of how to follow this system to reach your goals (which for our purposes will be applied to chest and arm training):
You have to stretch before, after and during your workouts.
“Basic stretching is used while warming up or cooling down from exercise,” Hany explains. “This particular type of stretching targets the superficial part [surface layers] of the muscle(s) and its attachments.” While stretching is typically thought of as a way to help prevent injury, improve muscle recovery and ultimately support better growth Hany points out that “stretching the fascia is different.” As Hany explains, stretching aggressively during your workouts, particularly when a muscle is engorged with blood, loosens the sheath encapsulating that muscle. Although the scientific data on this point is extremely limited, many experts and bodybuilders believe stretching during your workout triggers greater potential for growth. Tom Platz, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Parillo and Dante Trudel are just a few who support this theory. Though Hany agrees with them to an extent, he argues that fascial stretching is best achieved by working from the inside out — through muscle volumization via gorging the target muscle with blood — not simply by elongating the muscle itself. Therefore, his training system requires you to perform basic stretching before, during and after your workout, and you must complete a higher volume of sets (pump sets) for the final exercise to ensure maximum expansion of the fascia. Try to hold each stretch for up to 30 seconds, and concentrate on feeling the pull in the muscle. Make sure you don’t bounce in and out of stretches and focus on moving slowly throughout. It’s important to note that when you stretch between sets, you do so with every exercise except for the last one. On your last move you’ll instead be applying a different technique (explained in Rule #4).
Do basic and heavy moves first.
“Using a higher-volume [approach] facilitates growth by filling the muscle with nutrient-rich, fascia-stretching blood,” explains Hany. “But [low-volume] heavy training is [also] important to stimulate muscle growth.” FST-7 is therefore designed with the value of both heavier and lighter training in mind. Use a low volume (three sets in the 8–10-rep range) and choose basic, compound lifts (for density and thickness) to start your workout. The barbell bench press is a good choice for chest. Keep in mind, Hany says, “The exercise you start with [will] actually depend on your physique.” For example, if you lag in the upper chest area, start your workout using movements such as incline dumbbell or barbell presses. “If you’re one of the rare individuals blessed with a totally balanced chest, you have a little more freedom in your exercise selection,” he says. You’ll then follow your compound exercises with isolation movements to focus on developing muscle fullness and roundness. Although Hany generally recommends finishing your workout with machine isolation movements as the final exercise, in some cases free weights are better suited depending on the muscle group being trained. When doing chest and biceps for instance, “An isolation exercise such as cable crossovers is best for pecs while EZbar curls seem to work better for biceps,” Hany says. The exercise you select should allow you to completely focus on that muscle and force as much blood into it as possible. “If assisting muscles [are called upon] to stabilize, you simply won’t be able to force the required blood volume into the desired muscle.” Hence, the focus for your last exercise is both on single-joint and machine movements whenever possible.
Increase the volume and decrease your rest periods on your final exercise.
After years of experimenting in the gym using trial-and-error methods, Hany determined that seven sets on the last move in your workout is ideal. (He does confess that “The number isn’t absolute and depends on [the bodybuilder’s] recovery ability.”) More important than the number of sets is stretching the fascia of the targetmuscle at the right times: at the end of eachset on your final exercise. This is when the muscle is the most filled with blood and at its maximal size. “Normal rest periods vary anywhere from 1–2½ minutes depending on the bodypart,” says Hany. “This allows the body sufficient time to recover in order to handle maximum weight on the next set.” However, the goal of the seven sets is to maximize your pump by forcing as much blood into the muscle as possible, not to allow you to move the most weight. “The length [of normal rest periods] is too long and would allow some of [this] blood to flush out,” he says. “Think of it as filling up a balloon that has a small leak: Your muscles slowly lose the blood being pumped into them.” The goal here is not to move the most weight, but rather to achieve the best pump possible. Therefore, on your final exercise reduce the rest periods to a maximum of 30–45 seconds between sets. You’ll still be partially fatigued from your previous set, which means you’ll sacrifice some of the weight you can normally lift, but the pump and burn will increase exponentially.
Flex! Utilize isometrics during your between-sets rest intervals.
While you may not be predisposed to standing in front of a crowded gym and flexing your muscles after a set, that doesn’t mean this technique is without value — you just need to find a place to do it when no one’s looking! By performing short isometric holds (timed flexing of the target muscle) during your betweensets rest periods, you can further increase the amount of pressure on the fascia. The key here is to build exponentially on your pump sets so the muscle fascia reaches its maximum state of expansion by the final set. Start by holding the muscle in the flexed position for 10 seconds at a time, and then slowly work your way up to 30 seconds.
Drinking water between sets is essential.
Interestingly, drinking water during your rest intervals is critical on your final seven sets. “Water makes up the majority of your blood volume,” says Hany. “More volume in the muscle requires more water — it’s important to drink water throughout the entire workout, but it’s especially important during the sevens.” Hany instructs his clients to sip about 2 ounces of water during each rest period, before and after the isometric holds. Not only is water important because it helps to increase muscle volume, but it also acts as a vehicle for absorption of muscle- building vitamins, minerals, amino acids and oxygen into the muscle. Simply drinking water, of course, doesn’t automatically lead to more muscle growth. You still need to increase calories using key macronutrients such as protein. “I’m currently developing an FST-7- specific nutrition program,” Hany says. “I’ve tested many different foods and supplements to see what items maximize recovery from these workouts.” When he does, expect to read about it here!
Here’s a summary of the rules to follow for the FST-7 program:
1.STRETCH BEFORE, AFTER & DURING YOUR WORKOUTS.
2.DO BASIC AND HEAVY MOVES FIRST.
3.INCREASE THE VOLUME AND DECREASE YOUR REST PERIODS ON YOUR FINAL EXERCISE.
4.FLEX! UTILIZE ISOMETRICS DURING YOUR BETWEEN-SETS REST INTERVALS.
5.DRINKING WATER BETWEEN SETS IS ESSENTIAL.
02-10-2009, 12:55 AM #2
Written by TheProCreator
Monday, 13 October 2008 13:33
Just wondering, is there anything magical about the number seven? I ask because I have been using FST-7 for two months now and seem to hit my peak pump right at five sets. Anything beyond that doesn’t give me a better pump. Is it okay for me to do five sets instead of seven?
There is nothing ‘magical’ per sec about performing seven sets. However, this is the number I arrived at following a great deal of trial and error. In the past, I had various clients try doing five or six sets, and most were not able to achieve their maximal pump. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some people out there that are indeed able to get the job done with five sets. But I would still recommend eventually attempting to increase the number of pumping sets to seven. What I suspect is happening in most cases when trainers feel that seven sets are too much is that they aren’t recovering adequately. This could be from inadequate nutrition, lack of sleep, excessive stress at home or work, or a combination thereof. Once these issues are addressed and corrected, the individual will be able to tolerate a higher volume of training and make gains with it. In other cases, if a person is a beginner or simply not used to high-intensity training, there is definitely a break-in period where the nervous system has to adjust to something so traumatic as FST-7. After a few weeks, most people have adapted and are able to handle this intense type of training.
Are there intermediate or advanced versions of FST-7?
Yes, we are currently testing several variations on FST-7 to rate their effectiveness. One version is similar to the Heavy Duty Dorian Yates style of training, in that only one or at most two work sets to failure of the first three or four exercises for a given bodypart are performed. Following this, two exercises are done in the ‘7’s’ method. Here’s an example for chest. Keep in mind that proper warm-ups are a must before attempting one all-out set to failure.
Incline barbell press 1 x 8-12
Flat dumbbell press 1 x 8-12
Incline dumbbell flye 1 x 8-12
Cable crossover 7 x 10-12 (30-45 seconds rest between sets)
Pec deck 7 x 10-12 (30-45 seconds rest between sets)
The last two exercises can be done individually, or as a superset. In other words, you could do your seven sets of cable crossovers and then do seven sets on the pec deck, or you could do seven back-to-back sets of crossovers and pec deck. We are also experimenting with using three sets in the ‘7’s’ style. Findings and results will be reported here in coming months.
You stressed the importance of drinking water before the workout and especially in between the ‘7’ sets. Does it have to be water, or could I have a carb drink or an energy drink like Redline or Turbo Tea?
The answer to this depends on how well hydrated you are prior to the workout. Ideally, I like my clients to consume a minimum of two liters of water from the time they wake up to the start of their workout. Depending on what time of day you train, this may not be possible. For example, there are many bodybuilders whose work or family responsibilities dictate that they train in the morning hours. They usually only get one meal in before training, and trying to force down excessive amounts of water wouldn’t be wise or comfortable. If you’re a morning trainer, I would drink plain water and plenty of it while training. If you train later in the day, you can probably have a carb drink or an energy drink while you work out. Even then, I would recommend having water as well. You could either alternate between your energy drink and a water bottle, dilute the energy or carb drink with extra water, or try something I often do. Prior to the workout, I’ll have half a serving of an energy drink , then fill the container back up with water (I am talking about a minimum of 16-ounce container, not those little 8-ounce Red Bull cans). I then sip the diluted mix throughout the workout. The point I’m trying to get across is that it’s vital to the success of FST-7 training that you are sufficiently hydrated. Without enough water in your system, there is simply no way you can get a great pump. If you neglect this key factor, you will seriously compromise your chances of success with the program.
A couple years ago I recall reading in one of your columns that you recommended scheduling cheat meals around the training of your weaker bodyparts. Could I apply this same concept to FST-7 training?
Absolutely. I would especially suggest using this strategy if you happen to be following a very low-carb diet. A key point to understand with this is that it takes a certain amount of time for carbohydrates to be converted to glycogen in the muscles, and it also takes time for sodium to get into your system. Many bodybuilders don’t realize this and believe that the meal they eat an hour or two before the workout is the one that makes the difference, when in fact it’s more critical what you eat the day or night before. Getting back to the subject of early morning trainers, it’s even more important for these people to have their cheat meal the day or night before. It takes time for the body to super-compensate its glycogen stores, more so during a low-carb diet. Those of you that have followed the standard carb depletion and loading strategy for bodybuilding competition should remember that it took at least a couple days to properly ‘fill out.’ If you are going to carb load for the training of a weaker bodypart, clean carbs like plain rice or sweet potatoes are good choices, but you also need to make sure you have plenty of sodium via condiments like ketchup or teriyaki sauce. You could also have a high-carb, high-fat meal like burgers and fries, but be judicious. Otherwise, you could set back your fat-loss goals. The large amounts of sodium in foods like these will go a long way toward facilitating an excellent pump, but don’t go overboard with them. So, getting back to the original question, by all means have your weekly cheat meal the day or night before you train a weak bodypart. This will give that muscle group the best possible chance of achieving a maximum pump and stretching out the fascia tissue, allowing growth to take place.
I’ve been using FST-7 for the past month, and I have to say I love the results. My arms have always been stubborn, but they have grown more in the last few weeks than they have in the past year or more! Now, of course I want to get even better results. I was wondering what else you could recommend to maximize my recovery from the workouts? Just so you know, I already eat between 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. I have heard that some top bodybuilders take advantage of massage therapy to enhance their recovery. Is that something you recommend?
I am a huge believer in the benefits of massage therapy. One type I have many of my clients utilize is the PUSH (Power Under Soft Hands) technique. PUSH is a specialized form of muscle therapy designed to relieve chronic and acute pain originating from muscle, tendon, or ligament tension. Pressure is applied to muscles and soft tissue using a unique and systematic approach that restores blood flow and oxygen to tissue, resulting in long-term structural changes to the body. The PUSH techniques and goals are very different from standard massage. PUSH is a system of manual muscle therapy and patient education, which is based on the structural anatomy and physiology of the body. While massage can create a pleasant feeling of relaxation and stress relief, the goal of PUSH is to change the soft-tissue structure of the body so that long-term improvements in function, performance, and pain relief are achieved. Many of my clients visit the PUSH Therapy Center in the Bay Area, but there are many certified PUSH therapists all over the USA. Contact [email protected] to find one near you. Many of my clients use both PUSH and deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage is a type of massage therapy that focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. It is especially helpful for chronically tense and contracted areas such as stiff necks, low back tightness, and sore shoulders. Some of the same strokes are used as classic massage therapy, but the movement is slower and the pressure is deeper and concentrated on areas of tension and pain. When there is chronic muscle tension or injury, there are usually adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Adhesions can block circulation and cause pain, limited movement, and inflammation. Deep tissue massage works by physically breaking down these adhesions to relieve pain and restore normal movement. To do this, the massage therapist often uses direct deep pressure or friction applied across the grain of the muscles. I would recommend one of these sessions a week if you can afford it, or once every two to three weeks if you’re on a budget. A note of caution: there is a certain amount of pain to be expected with PUSH or deep tissue massage therapy. It’s not like a relaxing rubdown at the spa. The pain is necessary to accomplish the results in recovery that will benefit you. Another thing you can do to enhance recovery is to stretch after each workout. This will maintain flexibility, improve blood flow, and prevent your muscles from becoming knotted up and tight. Always keep in mind that an intense workout is only part of the equation. If you don’t recover properly, you can’t make the gains you want to.
Please continue sending me your questions and comments on FST-7, as they all help me to fine-tune the system and make it more effective.
02-10-2009, 12:55 AM #3
Natural Bodybuilding 101–Part 1
Q. I am a bodybuilder that chooses to train naturally. I don’t use anything illegal, and there are even several over the counter supplements that I won’t take for my own reasons, namely my personal ethics and health concerns. I was just curious, are there any ways I could enhance my results through training and nutrition? I do want to be the best I can be and I am willing to work hard to reach my physique goals.
The above question is like many I receive. Many of the emails I get are from natural bodybuilders who are curious as to whether I can recommend training, recovery, nutrition, and supplementation protocols that will allow natural bodybuilders to reach their full potential.
Natural bodybuilders do in fact need to employ specific principles in order to experience the best results possible. As a former natural competitor myself, as well as having worked with many natural athletes over the past decade, I have learned how to adjust all aspects of the program to ensure constant progress. Since many MD readers choose to train naturally, I thought it would be helpful to share this knowledge in a two-part series called Natural Bodybuilding 101. This month, we will go over optimal training and recovery methods for the natural bodybuilder.
Before we proceed, I think it’s necessary to address the term ‘natural’ and what it means. It actually has many definitions, depending on whom you ask. If you are talking about competitive bodybuilding, different organizations have their own interpretation. Some require athletes to be drug-free for one year, others five or seven years, while others only allow bodybuilders that have been natural for life to make that claim. Among these federations, there is even disagreement as to what products and substances constitute a violation of their drug-free policy. Though they all consider synthetic hormones to be banned substances, you can go on down the line and debate other products like diuretics, prescription drugs that burn fat or speed up the metabolism, and even ephedra. Some bodybuilders that are on hormone replacement therapy to maintain normal testosterone levels after their own bodies have become unable to produce the hormones on their own consider themselves natural, while others would say they are not. I know bodybuilders that believe anything they can legally buy over the counter doesn’t interfere with their natural status, even if it has drug-like effects. Still others feel using anything beyond protein powder renders the user unnatural. I have even met people that won’t consume anything but food, not even so much as a multivitamin. For the purposes of our discussion, let’s just define natural as not using any product that affects the body’s own hormone production or metabolism, which would include several ‘grey area’ supplements. Trust me when I say that there are things you can buy over the counter that also fall into this category. That being said, let’s talk about how the natural bodybuilder should set up his training.
Training frequency and volume
One of the most significant effects that artificial hormones and products that alter the body’s own hormone production have on an athlete is to dramatically increase their body’s ability to recover from intense weight training. They can train harder, longer, and more often and still recover rapidly. When a bodypart recovers at this rate, it can usually be trained twice a week in many cases. This even applies to major muscle groups like the legs or back. Most natural bodybuilders would overtrain if they attempted to do the same, as both the individual muscle groups and the nervous system as a whole would not have adequate time to recover between workouts. Natural bodybuilders need to learn how to train smarter rather than harder.
Typically, you want to train each muscle group once a week. If you have a weaker area that needs to be prioritized, you can work that twice a week. But it’s important to note that you can only do this with one bodypart at a time. There will always be some exceptions to the rule, as there are a few natural athletes with gifted recovery ability. But for the most part, these guidelines will apply.
Volume is another key area to take note of when training naturally. If you have a great mind-muscle connection that lets you stimulate a given bodypart to the point where it gets sore following most workouts, you should probably perform fewer sets than what you read about in the routines of the pro’s. Hitting the muscle with just one or two intense work sets per exercise and getting out of the gym faster allows for better recovery. You need to be in tune with your body and pick up on just how much training is enough, which will vary among individuals. (See Sidebar, “The 5 Most Common Signs of Overtraining.”)
Allowing time for results
Whether we are talking about training or nutrition programs, natural athletes need to give any new program adequate time to work before assessing its effectiveness or lack thereof. Training naturally means that everything will take a little longer to see results from, whether you are trying to gain mass or lose fat. In general, a period of 8-12 weeks is about right to start seeing noticeable results. Too many athletes quit a training program or a diet after only three or four weeks, which simply isn’t enough time. Patience truly is a virtue in this case. At the same time, you also need to know when it’s time to cut and run if a program isn’t delivering results. Don’t stubbornly continue with a training program or a diet that isn’t working after you have given it more than enough time to produce.
Choosing the right exercises
From reading MD, you know that most pro’s and top amateurs include plenty of basic free weight exercises in their training routines. Yet there are some that use a lot more machines and cables. They may not even train very heavy, or to failure. Thanks to the muscle-building effects of the products they utilize as part of their program, along with what are usually phenomenal genetics; they still get great results. Sorry to say this to all the natural bodybuilders, but you do not have the option of ‘wussing out’ like this. You have to go into the gym and tackle the toughest exercises like squats, deadlifts, dumbbell bench presses, barbell rows, and military presses. And just getting a good pump isn’t enough, either. You need to work as heavy as possible while maintaining good form, and make a real effort to become stronger over time if mass gains are your goal. You even need to keep up the intensity and heavy weights while dieting, as this is a crucial factor in retaining your muscle mass while losing fat. It’s a lot tougher to do this naturally, as it’s not easy to generate intensity when you are eating a lot fewer calories and doing a lot more cardio. It’s not for the weak of heart, or the weak-minded. You definitely have to be a lot more determined than the next guy or else you will fall by the wayside as the champions pass you by.
As far as the practice of having heavy and light days, this is another idea that you can pretty much forget about when you are training naturally. You always need to train heavy. Of course, there will be those days when something is a bit off. It may be that you didn’t get enough sleep, you didn’t drink enough water or eat enough food that day, or you could be coming down with a cold. The body is a finicky and temperamental machine, so there will be times when you won’t be able to manage your usual weights. In a situation like that, you can still keep your training intense by taking advantage of techniques like drop sets and supersets. But keep close tabs on your strength levels. In natural bodybuilders, there is always a direct correlation between changes in strength and changes in lean body mass. If you start training lighter, you can bet the farm that you will begin to lose size.
Nutrition is a major component in your recovery, and we will cover that in detail next month. Sleep is another vital piece of the recovery puzzle. You simply can’t miss a lot of sleep on a regular basis and still recover and grow from your workouts. Most people require an average of eight hours a night, but there are those that do best with a little more or less. Generally speaking, natural bodybuilders require more sleep, because sleep is when recovery – specifically tissue repair and growth – occurs. Taking naps whenever you have the chance is a very smart idea, especially if schedule or other circumstances (such as a newborn baby at home) prevent a full night’s uninterrupted rest much of the time. It should go without saying that staying out late partying is highly counterproductive to the natural bodybuilder. Missing sleep is bad enough, but to compound that with excessive alcohol intake or use of other substances will do nothing but set you back. Since I know some of you guys like to cut loose pretty much every weekend, perhaps I can convince you to be more moderate by putting it this way. If you have a great back workout on Friday and then go out and get hammered that night, you can consider that workout a total waste of time and energy. Your back won’t be able to recover from the workout, and any growth that you stimulated with all your intense effort in the gym will not be able to happen. Training stimulates muscle growth, but it’s only in the days following that training that the actual growth takes place – and only then when proper attention is paid to recovery and nutrition.
There are other methods to enhance recovery between workouts to facilitate better growth. Deep-tissue massage, regular chiropractic adjustments and treatment, and stretching are just a few options to look into. Remember, everything helps to some degree, and the sum of all those can and does make a big difference. It’s not so farfetched at all to say that they could even be the difference between first and second place, or making the top five in a show for the first time. The best natural bodybuilders are meticulous about every detail pertaining to their training, recovery, nutrition, and supplementation, and they take advantage of everything available to them. The results of such dedication and attention to detail are sometimes so impressive that the natural status of these athletes often comes into question. That just goes to show you that a lot more can be achieved naturally than most people would believe is possible. With your training and recovery optimized, you are many steps ahead of most natural bodybuilders that don’t put the requisite effort into them.
We wrap up Natural Bodybuilding 101 next month with detailed discussions on nutrition, supplementation, and cardio. You may even be surprised to learn that eating more of just one particular macronutrient can make a tremendous difference in your body’s natural testosterone production. Once you have all this information, you will be well on your way to being the very best you can be, naturally.
Got a question for Hany you would like to see answered here? E-mail him at [email protected]. Due to the high volume of e-mail he receives and limited editorial space, only selected questions will be answered and used.
Suggested training routine*+
Monday: Chest and biceps
Incline barbell press 3 x 8-10
Flat dumbbell bench press 3 x 8-10
Incline dumbbell flye 3 x 12
Barbell curl 3 x 8-10
Hammer dumbbell curl 3 x 8-10
Leg extensions 3 x 15
Squats 4 x 8-12
Leg press 3 x 10-12
Hack squats 3 x 8-12
Lying leg curl 4 x 10
Stiff-leg deadlift 3 x 10-15
Standing calf raise 2 x 10-12
Seated calf raise 2 x 15-20
Thursday: Shoulders and triceps
Seated dumbbell press 3 x 8-10
Dumbbell lateral raise 3 x 10-12
Bent lateral raise 3 x 10-12
Cable pushdowns 3 x 10-12
Skull crushers 3 x 10-12
Weighted dips 3 x 10-12
Chin-ups (warm-up) 2-3 sets to failure
Bent barbell row 3 x 8-12
One-arm dumbbell row 3 x 8-12
Reverse-grip lat pulldowns 3 x 8-12
Deadlifts 3 x 10-12
*This is just a sample. There are many effective ways to arrange your training, but this should give you a basic framework.
+Only work sets are listed. Be sure to always warm up adequately before proceeding to heavy weight.
The 5 most common signs of overtraining
How do you know when you are overdoing things in the gym and exceeding your body’s ability to recover from your training? The body will usually provide you with plenty of clues. If you are experiencing one or more of the following, chances are you are overtrained. Incorporate more rest days, get more sleep, and cut back on your training volume so you can get off the overtraining merry-go-round and back on the path to results.
1. General fatigue
Are you feeling tired and wiped-out, even though you have been getting plenty of sleep? Your body is trying to tell you it needs a break. During pre-contest phases, it might be understandable to feel a bit more tired than usual. But if it’s the off-season and you are not restricting calories or doing a lot of cardio, exhaustion is a red flag that you are overtrained.
2. Lack of motivation
If you usually can’t stop thinking about your next workout and can’t wait to get to the gym, but now you literally dread going and have to drag yourself there; something is seriously wrong. Losing your enthusiasm for training could mean you need to switch up your program, but more often it’s an indication of overtraining.
3. Loss in strength and/or size
The aim of bodybuilding is usually to become progressively bigger and stronger. If you find yourself regressing in either area, it’s probably due to the fact that you are putting your body through more stress than it can handle. The ‘more is better’ train of thought can have you thinking ten sets are always better than two, but natural athletes really need to be more judicious with their training volume.
4. Low-grade infections
Are you constantly getting colds or running a temperature? Unless you work in an elementary school or a hospital and are exposed to a ton of bacteria and viruses every day, this is not normal. A weakened immune system is a clear sign that your system is being overloaded and you need to back off on your training.
5. Trouble sleeping
We all toss and turn from time to time, but regular difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep is a warning sign. Though it can be caused by any number of things, in the case of bodybuilders it’s often the result of the central nervous system being overworked and unable to stabilize.
02-10-2009, 12:57 AM #4
Written by TheProCreator
Wednesday, 17 September 2008 21:08
Last month, we discussed ways to optimize your training and recovery to get the best results possible as a natural bodybuilder. As we all know, those are two sides of the pyramid when it comes to success. This month, we conclude the series with an in-depth discussion of nutrition and supplementation – the fuel your body needs to perform at its best and the catalyst for both muscle gain and fat loss. We will also discuss cardiovascular training, and the role it should play in your program not only pre-contest, but year-round.
Being meticulous with your diet – essential for success
The very best natural bodybuilders, the ones that have built physiques so impressive that they their natural status is often called into question, are the ones that are incredibly disciplined with their diets. That goes for both the off-season and the contest prep phases of the year. Relying on food rather than drugs means you are doing it the hard way, so you really need to ‘cross your t’s and dot your i’s,’ so to speak. If you are dieting, you can’t count on being able to have cheat meals. You probably have to adhere to a very strict diet for a very long time to get into contest condition. If you are trying to gain mass, you simply can’t miss meals. Staying in a positive nitrogen balance and keeping your body in an anabolic state requires diligence, determination, and usually a lot of forethought and planning about what you will eat, when, and where. It’s also important that real food comprises the majority of what you eat, particularly when you are dieting. Protein bars are out, and you need to limit shakes to two a day at most. Often I will have natural bodybuilders drinking only one shake a day, or none at all for the final three or four weeks leading up to a contest. That leads me into the next topic.
Finding the best diet for you
Unless you have tried a few different types of diets, you won’t know which one your body responds best to. Most people will simply either dramatically reduce or completely eliminate carbohydrates or fats. The truth is, sometimes your body needs a little bit of both macronutrients. People are different, and other factors such as age, size, and gender can impact the types and quantities of nutrients that a person will do best with. If you are someone that gains a significant amount of bodyfat in the off-season, as many natural bodybuilders do in their quest to increase muscle mass, I usually suggest a ketogenic type of diet for the initial few weeks of any contest prep phase. This allows you to drop a fairly large amount of fat in a short time. It also helps control cravings for sugar so that later on in the diet you won’t constantly be tempted to run out and inhale a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, and it also helps your body process carbs more efficiently when you re-introduce them in your diet. For almost everyone, carbs will have to be brought back into the diet at some point, at least in smaller amounts. Natural bodybuilders need to be wary of any type of extreme diet that eliminates anything completely for extended periods of time.
Making sure you don’t lose muscle while dieting
Maintaining your hard-earned muscle mass while dieting down into contest condition is a true challenge for natural bodybuilders, and many of them lose the battle on the way to the stage. That’s why it is absolutely critical that you keep a close eye on your strength levels. There is a direct correlation between strength and size. If you are getting weaker, chances are good you are also losing lean muscle tissue. I’m not saying that you should be handling your off-season weights when you are getting close to a show. But if you can usually bench press 315 for eight reps, and find yourself only able to manage 135 at four weeks out, there is a serious problem and you have most likely lost an appreciable amount of muscle mass. Either your calories are too low, you are doing too much cardio, or it’s a combination of both factors. When such a drastic situation occurs, I advise that a bodybuilder take a day or two off from all training, meaning no weights or cardio, and eat about double the amount of calories that you have been (clean food, of course). This will give you a break both mentally and physically, and it will also boost your metabolism. Most often this scenario occurs because a bodybuilder is attempting to lose too much fat in too short of a time period, hence the drastic measures in diet and cardio. I always stress to natural bodybuilders that they are better off dieting longer and more gradually to avoid the need to diet on extremely low calories or do a very high volume of cardio. For those that stay lean year-round, shorter diets can be effective. But as I said, most natural bodybuilders don’t stay close enough to contest condition year-round to get away with this, nor should they.
Tons and tons of protein?
Bodybuilders definitely have protein requirements far and above that of the average inactive individual, or even compared to athletes in other sports that aren’t attempting to gain extreme amounts of muscle mass. That being said, there is only so much protein that your body will be able to absorb and utilize. That’s especially true for natural bodybuilders that aren’t using any substances that can enhance protein synthesis. There is no need for outrageous amounts of protein, as much of that would simply be wasted. So how much do you really need? I advise an intake of between 1.5 to 2 grams of protein a day per pound of lean body mass, not total weight. Most people mistakenly base their protein needs on total weight, when they really should be going by lean mass. So if you are 200 pounds with 20% bodyfat, you don’t need 300-400 grams of protein a day. Your lean body mass is 160 pounds, so your actual daily protein requirements will range from 240 to 320 grams. As far as protein sources, you can’t go wrong with eggs, chicken, turkey, and fish. But if I had to choose the very best protein source for natural bodybuilders, I would have to go with lean red meat. Red meat is your friend! Eaten at the proper times in the proper amounts, there is no food that is more effective at both promoting muscle gain and retaining muscle while dieting. It’s loaded with creatine, iron, and B-vitamins, and also fat. The fat is important for another reason we’ll get to in a minute, but the fact that it slows the digestion process down is significant. Essentially, that means that red meat is the perfect sustained-release protein source, trickling amino acids into your system for many hours after eating it. Supplement companies have been coming out with various delivery systems for protein powders to get this time-release effect, when here it is occurring naturally in red meat. Of course, I don’t suggest eating the fattier red meat sources like cheap hamburger meat. Instead, opt for filet mignon, London broil, flank steak, or ground sirloin.
Why avoiding fats is a terrible idea for natural bodybuilders
When many athletes are trying to lose bodyfat, they cut fat out of their daily diets. This is particularly true if they are continuing to eat carbohydrates. Their rationale is that you can have one or the other in your diet, but not both. While it’s true that eating large amounts of fat and carbs in the same meals together will indeed make getting lean far more difficult, taking fats out of your diet completely is a very bad idea, especially for natural bodybuilders. Cholesterol has become a dirty word in today’s society, but anyone that has ever studied human biology knows that it’s a precursor in the body for many hormones – even an obscure one you may have heard of called testosterone. That’s right. If you fail to consume adequate dietary fat, your body will not have the raw materials it needs to produce normal amounts of testosterone. Without enough of the big T in your bloodstream, you can forget about ever gaining enough muscle and losing enough fat to have a physique to be proud of. This doesn’t mean you should go out and eat at Burger King, Taco Bell, and KFC three times a day. Avoid the saturated fats found in fast food and eat healthier fat sources like whole eggs, lean red meat, lean pork, chicken thighs, raw nuts, and salmon. But whatever you do, don’t cut fat out of your diet completely, or you can kiss your dreams of being a natural bodybuilding champion goodbye.
Using supplements successfully
Before I get into discussing which types of supplements you should consider, I want to state up front that you should never expect too much from supplements. By that, I mean that they are meant to compliment a good nutrition plan, not replace it. Many bodybuilders skip meals or fail to eat the right types of foods; or don’t train hard and consistently, and then look to supplements to make up for their laziness. To those people I say good luck, because you’re gonna need it. You also need to be realistic in your expectations and not expect supplements to work like drugs. Drugs have very powerful effects on the human body and can be potentially dangerous, which is why they are so closely regulated by the FDA, and most require a prescription to use. Supplements can also be effective, of course. Many natural bodybuilders use them to increase the results they experience from proper training and nutrition programs.
Supplements can also be somewhat of a gray area for natural bodybuilders. Some will use anything they can purchase legally, while others draw the line at certain types of products, such as those that can alter your own body’s hormone levels. I will leave that area alone, as it merits its own discussion somewhere else. For now, I will touch on the key supplements that you should include in your program based on your needs, goals, and budget.
Protein powders are extremely useful, because a couple shakes a day can easily help you reach your daily requirement of this very important macronutrient. In the off-season, your best bet is a product that combines casein with whey isolate and whey concentrate. These are known as ‘blended’ proteins. The casein digests slower, which helps give you that ‘time-released’ effect we discussed with red meat. If you are going to have a protein shake before bedtime, make sure there is casein in it so that the amino acids are being trickled into your body all night long. Whey protein absorbs faster, which makes it a better choice for your post-workout shake. When you are dieting, I advise natural bodybuilders to have whey isolate shakes because they are processed more efficiently. One thing I want to mention is that if any product is causing you discomfort such as stomachaches, cramps, gas, or diarrhea, for God’s sake stop using that product! Your body is clearly rejecting it. It never ceases to amaze me when people complain to me about such horrible reactions to certain products, then in the next breath tell me they are still using it. That goes for other products such as creatine, or anything. Try different types and brands and see if you can find one that agrees with your system better. Otherwise, you are just hurting yourself by putting your digestive system through such continual abuse. In the case of protein powders, a common culprit in digestion problems is lactose intolerance. Try to find a powder that’s made from egg albumin or a pure whey isolate that does not contain lactose. You may find that no matter what brand or type of protein powder or creatine or what have you that you try, your stomach just can’t handle it. Some people simply have extremely sensitive systems. In a situation like this, you just can’t use that product. Trust me, if your body is reacting so strongly to any product in a bad way, it’s not doing you any good.
We just touched on creatine, and that’s another very effective supplement. Creatine has been proven in many studies to improve muscle strength and endurance, and it also helps you gain weight by drawing more water into the muscle cells. There are many types to choose from today. Cell Mass is the best-selling creatine product on the market now and contains a very advanced formula, but there are also other good brands. But if your budget only allows for a basic creatine monohydrate powder and you get results from it, go for it.
Nitric oxide products can also help you get better pumps and enhance your training intensity and endurance. All have some type of arginine in them, and many also have creatine or caffeine included. NO Xplode is the most popular product of this type. If you are looking for a fat-burner, products with synephrine and caffeine are quite effective, though ingredients like green tea extract and L-carnitine are also beneficial. Another multi-purpose supplement suitable for both the off-season and pre-contest periods is L-glutamine. L-glutamine helps boost the immune system and enhances recovery, which is why many natural bodybuilders find it particularly effective during periods of dieting, when calories drop and cardio is increased. Obviously if one has deep pockets, there are such a wide array of supplements on the market today that you could easily spend thousands of dollars a month. There is a lot of hocus-pocus stuff out there, so be an educated consumer and do your best to stick with what’s tried and true. Stick to reputable brands rather than taking a chance on some fly-by-night company you’ve never heard of, and that might be gone tomorrow.
Cardio – not just for contest prep
Unless you have a very fast metabolism and stay naturally lean all the time with no special effort, cardio belongs in a natural bodybuilder’s training program all year long. Not only will regular cardio keep your bodyfat in check, but it will make sure that your heart, lungs, and circulatory system are strong and healthy. Even though natural bodybuilding is a healthy pursuit, the fact of the matter is that according to the BMI index, anyone with a significant amount of muscle mass is technically overweight. Your heart still has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body, even though the extra mass is muscle instead of fat. Cardio also helps strengthen the immune system. And all that red meat I told you about? As good as it is for building muscle, it still can contribute to blocked arteries unless you are diligent with doing regular cardio to keep the pipes running smoothly. In the off-season, the average natural bodybuilder should do three to five weekly sessions of thirty minutes. If you are prone to gaining bodyfat, you would want to be on the high end of that or even do more, while if you are a genuine hardgainer with a lightning-fast metabolism, the lower end is for you. Mix up the machines you use as well as the intensity levels. This will keep your cardio more interesting and prevent your body from becoming ‘too good’ at any one type. You don’t want that adaptation to take place, because that’s when fat loss grinds to a halt. Unlike the pre-contest phase, it’s okay to do cardio in the off-season with some carbs in your system. You still experience all the health benefits, and maximum fat loss is not the goal at this time.
The pre-contest phase is a different story. This is when you want to try and do most of your cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach for optimal fat-loss results. The amount of cardio you will have to do varies from person to person, but the two most important factors are your starting bodyfat point and your metabolism. The more fat you have to lose and the slower your body sheds fat, obviously the more cardio you will have to do. Most bodybuilders find that as they age, more cardio is required to get in shape. Often, it could double from age 23 to 33. But how much you will have to do could be anywhere from five weekly sessions of thirty minutes all the way up to twice-daily sessions of forty-five minutes. Anything beyond that is treading on dangerous, catabolic ground for a natural bodybuilder. I would much rather see the diet be longer than to have anyone doing more than ninety minutes of cardio a day. It’s just a much safer bet in terms of maintaining your muscle mass.
You now have all the basics necessary to make the most of your physique as a natural bodybuilder. The path you have chosen is not an easy one, but in the end you will have the satisfaction of knowing your results are purely the product of your hard work and determination. Natural bodybuilding is a healthier approach to the sport, and the gains you make are yours to keep. Stay consistent and focused, and you will be well on your way to building an impressive physique that anyone would be proud of.
Got a question for Hany you would like to see answered here? E-mail him at [email protected]. Due to the high volume of e-mail he receives and limited editorial space, only selected questions will be answered and used.
02-10-2009, 12:59 AM #5
Thanks to Hany for letting me repost his information!
02-10-2009, 06:43 PM #6
Future im here man!
legs today: squats 225lbs 5 sets 6-8 reps
hacks: 90lbs 3X12
leg press: 140 lbs(1 leg) 2X12
leg extensions: 90lbs 7X 10-12
02-10-2009, 06:57 PM #7
- Join Date
- Feb 2009
- Rep Power
Well done Shawn!
02-10-2009, 07:32 PM #8
I've got a friend using FST-7 and he's loving it. Say's it's the best program he's been on.Questions? Email me: [email protected]
02-10-2009, 07:34 PM #9
02-10-2009, 07:39 PM #10
Well some would argue that. Tami loves DC training. I like more of Yate's style myself with my 7's thrown in. Whatever works for you.
02-10-2009, 07:40 PM #11
02-10-2009, 08:00 PM #12
02-11-2009, 07:16 PM #13
- Join Date
- Feb 2009
- Rep Power
fst-7 is great one the best training system's out there,hit,i never tried dc
02-12-2009, 01:49 AM #14
i just started doing this system 2 days ago and so far i like it. i feel like i stay pumped longer than normal. but does anyone here just get so tired about half way through that u forget to keep stretching in between sets? and i have to admit i really like the flexing on the 7's. alittle painfull though but in a good way
02-12-2009, 11:45 AM #15
on this system, can you do any compound movement for the first 3 exercises followed by any isolated movement for the "7's"?