Thursday, June 24, 2004

By Pavel Tsatsouline,
Master of Sports

"I have tried lifting weights to add power to my striking and
grappling techniques. Since I want to build endurance, as
well as strength, I do three sets of ten to twenty reps to
failure on all my exercises. The problem is, I get so sore
and tired, that I have no energy left for my martial arts
practice! What am I doing wrong?"

Everything. The punch bag who came up with the light
weights/high reps formula for martial artists did not have
a slightest clue about either strength training or martial arts.

The best strength training formula for a fighting man or
woman is heavy, 80-95% 1RM, weights, and low, 1-5,
repetitions. There are at least five reasons why:

1. Heavy weights build strength.

It is the muscular tension, not fatigue, that you should
maximize in training if strength is your goal. There are
plenty of studies, for instance Goldberg et. al (1975), to
support this notion. The heavier is the weight you are
lifting, the higher is the tension. It is that simple.

2. Strength endurance gained with ten, twenty, or more,
reps is not specific to hand to hand combat.

You would be a lot better off doing a few rounds on a
heavy bag or Thai pads. Iron is just for strength, period.
Leave the sissy high rep stuff to aerobic instructors.

3. Low rep training causes minimal fatigue and muscle

Strength endurance work of the kind that you and most
martial artists favour takes a lot longer to recover from
that one to five rep strength work (Roman, 1962). High
repetitions also make you a lot more sore. Does not it
make sense to perform your conditioning in a manner
which does not interfere with the practice of your
fighting art?

4. High reps build useless tissue and break down real

One of the reasons some bodybuilders are generally a lot
weaker than they look is that their muscles ain’t real.
Repetition lifting of a submaximal weight promotes
sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, or an increase in the
volume of worthless jello like filler inside the muscle,
while breaking down the contractile proteins, the "real"
muscle (Nikityuk & Samoylov, 1990).

5. Heavy low rep training is the safest way to lift.

No, I have not been hit on the head a few times too many.
I will give you at least two reasons why heavy, low rep
weight training is much safer than lifting a light weight a
lot of times. First, the stabilizing muscles get tired before
the prime movers in high rep sets, which sets you up for
an injury. When you do a set of twenty squats, your back
gets tired before your legs and sooner or later you will
get hurt! On a five rep set your legs will be first to go.
Second, when you lift a weight which is heavier than
eighty percent of your maximum, you can get
superstrong without training to failure. Ed Coan who
posted the highest powerlifting total of all time not
long ago always racks his monstrous weights a rep
or two short of his limit!

With all of the above in mind, here is the program of
choice. Perform three core lifts: the squat, the bench
press, and the deadlift. Squat and bench on Monday,
then press again and deadlift on Thursday. Upper
body exercises tax your body less than leg and back
work, that is why you get to bench twice a week.

Do five sets of five, four, three, two, and, one reps.
Add a little weight, 2,5-10 pounds after every set.
Rest for as many minutes as the number of reps
you have just done: 5 reps, 5 min, 4 reps, 4 min, 3
reps, 3 min, 2 reps, 2 min, 1 rep, go home.

Start the program with weights you can easily lift
for the prescribed number of repetitions. Add a
little weight every third workout until you can barely
make your reps, then take a week off lifting. When
you come back to the gym, start another power
cycle with comfortable weights, and build up to
your new personal best in eight to twelve weeks.

The results will be spectacular. You will build great
strength without stealing time or energy from your
martial art practice. Who can expect more from a
conditioning program?

Pavel Tsatsouline, Master of Sports, is a former
physical training instructor for Spetsnaz, the
Soviet Special Forces. He has a degree in coaching
and physiology from IFK, the Physical Culture
Institute, in the Soviet Union. Pavel was nationally
ranked in the Russian ethnic strength sport of
kettle-bell lifting.

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Monday, June 07, 2004

by Dan Gallapoo

The most common mistake I see most hard gainers making is that they
consistently overtrain. They overtax their muscles, endocrine system, and
nervous system too frequently and don't allow enough recovery time. Hey,
even if you're eating correctly, this means NO GAINS! Weight training is
pretty stressful on your body and if you're not recovering adequately from
each training session, you will not grow. You don't grow when you're
training, you grow when you're resting.

I have had several people send me their routines and I'm amazed that some
folks can even do the volume of work that they are doing. Almost every
time I ask where they got the routine, they tell me that they got it from
one of the muscle mags and it's the routine that Mr. Supreme Dictator of
the Cosmos Bodybuilding Champ does.

I've got news for ya...Mr. Supreme Dictator of the Cosmos Bodybuilding
Champ didn't even write that article that it says was written by him. I
know this for a fact! I'm friends with someone who regularly
"ghost-writes" articles for all the Mr. Supreme Dictator of the Cosmos
bodybuilding champs.

Also, Mr. Supreme Dictator of the Cosmos Bodybuilding Champ is genetically
gifted and has never had trouble making gains. He also has a lot of
pharmaceutical assistance at his disposal. Actually at his level, his
pharmaceutical bill runs about $60,000 a year! I'm not making this up! I
have interviewed several of these guys.

NOTHING that Mr. Supreme Dictator of the Cosmos Bodybuilding Champ does
has any relevance to you and me, the Genetically Average Joe.

I can give you an exact formula for bodybuilding failure: follow Mr.
Supreme Dictator of the Cosmos Bodybuilding Champ's routine. You'll not
only NOT make any gains, you'll probably even go backwards in size and

The best way for guys like us to train is to go heavy (5 to 8 reps) on the
basic exercises. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, chins, rows, standing
press, barbell curls, and dips. And don't try to do too many sets for
each bodypart. I would consider myself an advanced trainer and am
carrying a fair amount of size for my small skeletal structure and I only
do 7 to 8 sets once a week for large muscle groups. That is about what my
recovery abilities can handle. So you really don't need that many sets to

I really believe that most hard gainers should train to positive failure.
In other words, if you are going to do 8 reps, the eighth one should be
the last possible rep that you could do without assistance. Although I
think that sometimes out of laziness, or fear, we cheat ourselves and stop
a set short when we could actually do another couple reps.

So that is what I believe is the best training formula for hard gainers:
Basic, multi-joint exercises, train to positive failure, and perform only
as many sets as necessary to stimulate growth...and you would be surprised
how few that actually is. When in doubt, always err on the side of doing
LESS sets. I would venture to guess that 98% of the people who consult
with me about training are WAY overtraining and have been overtraining for
years...and of course haven't made any appreciable gains for years, too.

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Thursday, June 03, 2004

By Dan Gallapoo

Why do people workout and not make any gains? I’ll tell you why. Most
people go into the gym to move weights and not workout with them. They
think that just because they can move the weight, they are using the
proper weight.

Good gains will only be made by using the proper amount of weight. The
muscle cannot tell if you are using 50 pounds or 30 pounds, if you use
momentum to move the weight. I use heavy weight because my body has
adjusted to such poundages. I do not expect anyone to use the same weight
I am using, when they have 14" arms. All I can recommend is that everyone
should leave their ego at home and go to the gym, to workout and not cheat
their gains. You will get better gains, if you use a weight that you can
move under full control.

I see too many people who bounce the weight off their chests, arch their
back, and swing the weight up. These techniques do not work. The purpose
of going into a gym is to stimulate muscle growth, and not to show off
what you can do.

You've got to tell yourself the truth about your capabilities. I run into
this problem almost every bench day. I want to add huge amounts of weight
and perform terrible form , but I know that if I do that, I won’t see any
gains the next week. I see some people over estimate their strength. They
start off with 135 on the bench, then they go straight to 225 (the
strongman weight) and then try to force out 4 reps, when they should have
been lifting 155 or 165.

Strength will come with time. You've got to have a plan. A simple plan is

Make a simple (honest) pyramid of what you can really do with good form.
Then week after week add 2 ½ to 5 pounds to the bar, on the 3rd to 5th
set. Then you will slowly see results. Take your time with it and it will
work. Don’t expect to come into the gym and lift 50 pounds more than the
last time. A 2 pound gain is great!

You've got to be a intelligent lifter and not give into your ego. If I
pick up a weight and it feels too heavy, I put it down and find a better
feeling weight. I have hurt my back in the past performing cheat curls.
Cheat curls do not work! They never did work, and they will never work.
The only thing they do, is build up your ego and not your muscles.

Lesson learned: A lighter weight under full control will be more
beneficial than a heavy weight under no control.

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