I'm looking to change my chest workout. What does your chest workout look like? How many days per week do you work chest? Any other insight you can give me is appreciated.
. . . Chuck
A: Hi Chuck,
When it is time to train the chest muscle group, I like to hit all parts of the chest area: upper chest, middle chest, and lower chest. What I also consider in my workout is that working the chest hard puts stress on my triceps and front delts, so I have to balance all the other parameters of my training to avoid overtraining other muscle groups while focusing on the chest muscles. Here are some important points about training that we have to consider:
Considering those points, I like to vary my training from one workout to another, which allows me to hit my chest in different ways and apply more stress each time I train. For example:
Day 1 – high volume
60-degree incline dumbbell press: 8-10 reps
Rest 0 seconds
45-degree incline-dumbbell press: 8-10 reps
Rest 20 seconds
Flat dumbbell press: 8-10 reps
Rest 120 seconds
Repeat steps 1 to 6, three to four times more, depending on experience level
Allow three or four days to recover from Day 1.
Day 2 – high intensity
Bench press: 6 sets of 6 reps, rest 120 seconds between sets
Dips: 3 sets of maximum reps, rest 60 seconds between sets
Finally, I really like to work agonist/antagonist muscle groups together (e.g., chest and back). I believe it creates a better CNS (central nervous system) recovery during training, increases strength during training, increases flexibility during training, and allows me to increase the volume of training in the same time period.
I see from your photos on SeriousAboutMuscle.com and on Facebook that you’ve made great improvements since last year. I would like to know about your training program leading up to the IDFA International Championships. How many days per week did you train? What kind of split did you use? Any other information you’re willing to provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
. . . Leo S.
A: Hi Leo,
When yo train naturally, that is, without drugs, you must find some other ways to improve your physique and muscle mass. What I like to do at the end of each year is to take the time to make a retrospective of the year. I look at my symmetry, my improvements over previous years, my attitude, my energy level, and I plan how I can improve the way I train, eat, rest, and use supplements.
Last year, I made some mistakes that cost me a lot at the IDFA Pro Universe competition (water retention, tiredness, softness, and maybe loss of muscle mass). I had to consider this before going further in the sport.
In 2011, I changed my sleeping pattern first. The big part of muscle gain and fat loss happens during your sleep; if you don’t get enough sleep, go to the bed too late, or wake up too early, you don’t maximize your gains. So I time myself to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night and stay asleep until 5:30 am. Your sleep can be divided into two parts: physical recovery and emotional recovery. The physical recovery happens during first part of your sleep and the emotional recovery is done during the early hours of the morning. So I slept more than last year, which allowed me to get a better recovery. It’s a little point that made a big difference.
Then I looked at my dieting pattern. To get more ripped, you have to increase your metabolism and then cut down your calories and see what happens. Before dieting, I didn’t know what my breaking point was to maintain 8 percent body fat; I found that I could maintain 8 percent at 3200-3500 calories per day. Knowing this makes it easier to track progress, cut down fat, and minimize loss of muscle tissue.
I also managed my calorie intake during my contest prep in a way that didn’t tire my body. I shifted to a stricter diet only three weeks before the show (to a “depletion” diet, meaning mostly protein) and got onstage in really good condition with high energy level. Last year, I spent too much time on a depletion diet and tired my adrenal glands. When you tax them, your body becomes tired. You have water retention, you gain fat and lose muscle, and you secrete more cortisol – and cortisol is not your friend in a contest prep.
An important aspect of my 2011 contest prep was that I didn’t make any big changes in my training and dieting patterns between my off season and my contest prep. I cut down 500-600 calories in phase 1 of my diet. This allowed me to drop my body fat from 8 percent to 6 percent. As I said, I changed my diet in only the last three weeks of my prep. My body was ready for this change and responded to it very well. Never forget this: when you starve yourself, you body secretes more natural growth hormone (GH). This doesn’t mean that I stopped eating completely, but I managed my body’s natural GH production to get extra results. Unfortunately this dieting part of my prep is “Top Secret.”
My training program was the same as my off-season preparation. I am a bodybuilder who likes training heavily with low reps. I don’t like tri-sets or quad-sets (or all those patterns that make you run around the gym). I like to feel the pump in my muscles. So, last year, I tired my body out by training too much per week, and with no regard for the training my body prefers. Moreover, I notice that bodybuilders are probably those who train less in a week compared to, say, an Olympic athlete. We are always afraid of overtraining. So I decided to increase the volume of training on each body part, especially my shoulders, which are a weak point. My split training was something like this:
Day 1: legs
Day 2: chest, back and rear delts
Day 3: arms
Day 4: off
Day 5: shoulders, traps
Day 6: off
Day 7: start over
In the last weeks of my contest prep, I added cardio, more volume on legs, and “triple drop sets” to really cut down the fat on quad and hamstrings, and to get what we call a “Christmas tree” in my lower back. Why a triple drop set? My body responds well to heavy weight, so this routine allowed me to add more weight and get more than 45 seconds under tension, an effective way to lose fat.
Finally, I have been sponsored by ATP (Athletic-Therapeutic-Pharma) Laboratories and have started using their supplements. They are a Canadian supplement company and are GMP-certified in Canada. Their standards exceed those set by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) organization. I use all their supplement range to fuel every cell in my body and ensure the delivery of high-quality nutrients. This helps me to recover, detoxify and cleanse my body, boost my testosterone and GH level naturally, and increase the effectiveness of my CNS (central nervous system) that improves my mind-muscle connection. The supplements I used from XPN are glutamine, a multivitamin, and whey-isolate powder. The supplements I used from ATP Laboratories are:
IGF2: Alpha GPC, or acetylcholine, is also the chemical secreted in the myoneural junctions found in skeletal muscle, which controls muscular contraction. Without acetylcholine, you couldn’t contract your muscles, which would make training a bit difficult, not to mention breathing! Moreover Alpha GPC may be one of the most effective nutrient GH boosters available. It increases growth hormone release through two known mechanisms: 1) Increased synthesis of acetylcholine, which inhibits the release of the GH-blunting somatostatin; and 2) promotes increased secretion of GHRH through increased activity of various cellular second messenger systems that results in increased hormonal secretion--in this case GHRH.,
T-Andro: increases testosterone naturally,
Estro-Control: controls estrogen levels naturally
Omega 3: for all the benefits of omega-3 oil but with a better concentration than caps.
IBCAA: anti-catabolic agent that enhances recovery, increases endurance and muscle mass.
I hope that this information answers your question.
I am thinking about competing in my first competition, but I work a full-time job. I read that you work full-time as a financial advisor. Can you tell me how you manage working and competing? Do you really have time for both? Perhaps you can let me know how you do it and even what your workout schedule looks like.
. . . Tom Buchan
A: Hi Tom,
This is a really good question because the main reason people don’t practice a sport is lack of time. And when you want to push the activity to another level, like taking part in a fitness competition, the challenge is to carefully manage every aspect of your life.
I have a wife and a 4-year-old daughter, and we have another child coming in June. I work as a financial planner and manager in a financial center and I am starting up my own business in the fitness industry. What is more, I train close to ten hours per week, compete, and I am very involved in fitness. Wow! How can a person do all that? Frankly, a lot of people would burn out just by reading about it, but the fact is, you can do it by defining your purpose, vision and goals. Also remember this: achievement requires effort, energy and determination.
When you want to be an athlete and live differently from most people, you have to do things differently. The most important thing in my life is my family, and around my family revolve sports, friends, pleasure, and work. You definitely have to find a balance among all the things you value in your life and in my case, family comes first, so I make sure to schedule plenty of time with them. My job is also important, so I schedule the important family time around my work. I keep track of all my time commitments in my agenda. Remember: proper time management is your best ally when you are an athlete and want to perform.
I know that I need to sleep seven to eight hours (9:30 pm to 5:30 am), and I have to work out four to six days per week, each workout lasting one and a half hours. So I’ve found the best time for me to train is in the morning, the time of the day when my family is still sleeping and when I am at my best mentally and physically. After my training, I get back home to see my family before going to work.
A regular workout schedule looks like this:
Sunday: 9:30 am (while my daughter is at a dancing class)
Monday: 6:30 am (family is sleeping)
Tuesday: 6:30 am (family is sleeping)
Thursday: 6:30 am (family is sleeping)
Friday: 6:30 am (family is sleeping)
Saturday: 8:00 am or off (depending of the preparation phase)
Each minute is important in each day, so no TV, no time to waste with meaningless problems, and no time to listen to people complain. Basically, I know I have no time to lose!
In this venture, the support of my wife is very important. She knows how to follow my diet, what to cook and when (chicken, eggs, beef, horse), and she is also really understanding about my training schedule. When she doesn’t have the time to cook my food, I do it during the weekend or at the end of the day. If I have to wake up a 4:30 am to cook, I will. But food is not really a problem. I put the chicken into the oven for three hours and let it cook; horse takes about ten minutes, as do vegetables.
A big part is to plan my lunch properly because that’s in the middle of day when I’m out. I prepare my lunch in the morning while my eggs are cooking and I’m getting my workout bag ready and, at the same time, responding to my e-mail (ask anybody -- I answer my e-mails between 5:30 am and 6:30 am). This requires a lot of coordination!
Now that I have a plan that includes work time, training time, family time and rest, I use the remaining hours to develop and manage my own business. Obviously, I like being busy.
As you can see, friends are not a big part of my planning. There are many reasons for this. First, I don’t believe in having hundred of friends; instead, I prefer quality relationships (one of my best friends is my training partner). Second, I concentrate my energy with my best friends and try not waste precious hours with time-consuming “supposed” friends. Finally, I don’t need to see my friends every day and every week; they have their lives and I have mine. So a lunch during the week and a family get-together are usually enough to maintain good relations.
To get back to your question, the answer is that it involves planning and design. When a desire to do something is more powerful than not doing it, you can accomplish anything and you will always find time to do it with the right planning. Yes, it requires sacrifices sometimes, but in my opinion, nothing in life is free.
This three-part series of articles recognizes three Canadian bodybuilders for their outstanding achievements in 2009. Last month, I wrote about Erik Alstrup, the overall winner of the 1997 CBBF Canadian…