Question of Strength
by Charles Poliquin
Q: Charles, you've not commented much about Tribex or Power Drive, why? Is the reason for your reticence, because you haven't had much experience with these supplements, or is it because you're not keen on them. I'm not trying to be disrespectful, nor is it my intent to cause a big scandal. Please be open with your response. I mean, really tell it like it is.
A: Excellent question, and one that I have really wanted to answer for a long time. I personally know the results that Tribex and Power Drive are producing in my elite athletes, but I've never been comfortable promoting products that I'm intimately involved with. I know far too well how skeptical the public is, and I've never wanted to be categorized as just somebody who pushes supplements. However, I believe Tribex and Power Drive will stand on their own and I'm willing to stick my neck out for them. But before I go any further, I want everyone to know the whole truth about my involvement with Biotest and Testosterone.
TC Luoma, Brian Batcheldor, Tim Patterson, and I put these two companies together for two basic reasons: to produce the absolute very best supplements possible, and to write the most advanced hardcore information that would truly take bodybuilding the next leap forward. And we didn't want anyone telling us what to do, what to say, or what to sell.
The four of us, with the help of our very talented staff, have produced everything you see in Testosterone. Yes, we have other contributing writers, but with that one exception, everything is done "in house."
Regarding Biotest supplements, TC, Brian, Tim, and I design all of our formulations and conduct the preliminary research. We put these two products out because we believe that they are by far the very best in their categories. We're just about done with two research projects (one on Tribex and one on Power Drive). So far, users of Tribex are showing as much as a 22-32 percent increase in testosterone levels. (I'm not kidding!) And subjects using Power Drive are consistently producing a plus 6-8 percent in strength levels 45 minutes after taking a single dose. (Once again, I'm not kidding.)
In essence, Testosterone and Biotest were produced and paid for by us-no one else was involved. And nothing was done out of market pressure or fear of "doing the wrong thing." What you see and buy is from our hearts. We really believe in what we are doing and selling.
Now, I've said what has been on my mind for two months. Love me or hate me, it's the truth.
Q: A few years ago, I read an article of yours concerning the "critical drop off" point. You stated that when a muscle reaches a 5%-7% decrease in performance (either in weight or reps), that particular exercise should be terminated. My problem is that I usually reach this point after only 1 or 2 sets! For example, I was performing incline dumbbell presses on a Swiss ball using 110 pound weights for 4 reps at a 505 tempo. After 4 minutes of rest, I could barely perform 2 reps at the same tempo. I dropped down to 100 pounds for the third set and got 3 reps; and then dropped down to 90 pounds for the fourth and got 3 reps. Each set had 4 minutes rest. The same thing happens no matter what rep tempo I use.
My question is, should I continue to perform multiple sets and just allow the weights to drop, or should I terminate the exercise after only one or two sets?
Finally, I just want to say its wonderful to have this forum in which to pose questions. Over the years, I sent several questions to MM2K for you to answer, but I always got a response from some fitness trainer at MM headquarters.
A: Thanks for the compliment. As far as your problem, please note that the 7% rule generally applies to training for maximal strength (loads of 85% of maximum or more) . In classical body building training, I recommend approximately a 20% drop-off.
Even so, given the rest intervals you listed-for your given reps and tempo-I'm amazed that you have such a low ability to repeat loads. The normal drop-off for most people is about 2% per set, but for you it's nearly 10%! This indicates very poor work capacity.
It could be due to two things:
1) Genetically poor work capacity. You may need to do more exercises for less sets. In other words, instead of doing 2 exercises for 4-5 sets each, try 3-4 exercises for 2 sets each.
2) Inadequate diet. In your case, I would pay attention to your nutrition as you may not be eating enough carbs to ensure sufficient glycogen storage.
I hope this helps. Write me and let me know how you're doing.
Q: You've convinced me to take tempo seriously. I even bought a metronome, but I have a question. I usually take all my sets to concentric failure. The last rep might take twenty seconds to squeeze out. However, tempo implies all reps take the same amount of time under tension. Should I consider a rep a failure if I cannot achieve it with good form fast enough? Will I still make gains if I don't push myself to grind out those slow painful final reps?
A: First, let me correct a few things. Tempo implies all reps take the same amount of time under tension. That's definitely the goal, but realistically, the concentric part of the last few reps almost always take longer.
"Should I consider a rep a failure if I cannot achieve it with good form fast enough?" No, not at all. It doesn't matter how long the last rep takes as long as it is equal or slower than the tempo prescribed. In other words, if doing bench presses on a 402 tempo, bouncing it off the chest and lifting your hips to get through the sticking point-which may take less than a second-is a big mistake.
But if your plan is to do 6 reps on a 402 tempo, and the sixth is done on a 405 tempo, that's perfectly okay.
Q: In last week's "Question of Strength," you mentioned one-arm dumbbell shrugs. How do you do these, especially with a heavy weight?
A: To maintain balance and proper posture, have the free hand hold a post like one of the four on a power rack. Make sure the hand performing the movement is semi-supinated (hammer grip) so you can have greater range. Also, make sure to hold your sternum high so that your neck is properly aligned.
Q: In response to a previous question about the powerlifter wanting to drop body fat without losing strength, what kind of dietary manipulation would you recommend?
A: Giving a complete answer to this question goes beyond the scope of this column, but here are three very simple, yet effective dietary manipulations to cut body fat without losing strength:
1) Reduce carbs so that they make up a maximum of 40% of the caloric intake (you may have to go lower than that if your body fat is quite high).
2) Take 2-5 grams of glutamine on an empty stomach before going to bed and in the morning to induce growth hormone release.
3) Increase the consumption of good fats like pumpkin seed oil, flax seed oil, fish oils etc. This is will help manage your insulin output.
4) Use a thermogenic supplement like Champion Health's Thermadrol.
For more information on how to lose fat while retaining muscle, attend my "Altering Body Composition" seminar in New York City, September 19-20, 1998. I will be co-lecturing with Dr. Eric Serrano, MD. Phone toll-free 1-888-847-2727 to register. Please note that registration is limited. Group rates are available.
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