The Top 10 Physique Changers

When TC asked me to compile my Top 10 list, I knew that I'd have to think about it–a lot. How does one distill 20 years into 10 things? There's pragmatic stuff to choose from, three exercise physiology degrees and two nutrition degrees, too. Ugh. In the end, I decided to go with the first things that popped into my head. I've arranged them into three categories: Nutrition (duh!), Training and Philosophy. Here they are...

Nutrition

Simply divide the number of needed daily macronutrients (protein, carb, fat) by six meals and that's what's needed every 2-3 hours. Eat them or be a shrunken flabby-man; period. I learned this one long ago and talked about it in Bonehead Nutrition.

Although I may get some heat from my professional colleagues on this one, it's important to understand that by eating highly thermogenic and satiating (filling, satisfying) protein, one naturally compensates by eating less of other things, like junk food. There's no need to over-eat the stuff but consider that proteins offer cool "functional food" qualities, too. So, for dieting and bulking phases alike, if I'm going to count anything, it's grams of protein per day and per meal.

Having said what I did about frequent meals and protein, it's a critical refinement to eat the preponderance of one's carbs at breakfast, second-breakfast and around workout time (particularly mid- and post-workout). Healthy fats like monounsaturates and fish oils are best kept for evening hours.

This is a relatively recent development for me. Whole grains have never been a problem but if there's a single most important factor to eating, it's variety. For reasons similar to protein, getting in 5-10 grams of fiber per meal prevents consumption of less desirable foods. This is because it's filling and offers metabolic advantages.

Training

Slow lowering of weight, sometimes with weight even greater than one's concentric max, is amazing for growth. Example exercises include stiff-legged deadlifts, "hithead" overhead presses to the top of one's head, and seated incline "profanity curls" (four-count negatives).

Having revealed my love of soreness-inducing heavy negatives, it's a must to respect the five-day recovery time frame for a muscle group, as well as a full week off for every eight-12 spent in hard training. Check out Muscle Masochism for more information.

Just a few years ago I was indoctrinated into a training regime that involves alternating heavy/ negative low-rep sessions with a following week of lighter medium-rep sessions. In this cyclical way, glycogen can be spared somewhat on heavy days while one's largest motor units and joints are rested (in a relative sense) on the lighter days. Research suggests that even advanced guys at a plateau can grow like weeds! Amazing.

Although harder cardio does indeed burn fat and the tortoise vs. hare debate will rage on infinitum, I vastly prefer the low-moderate-intensity approach. I simply lift too close to the overtraining envelope to add-in hard cardiovascular exercise. Outdoor walking (it's intense enough if you're near or over 200 pounds or wearing an X-Vest) and uphill treadmill walks at a heart rate around 120 bpm drain calories and body fat without kicking up cortisol, other stress hormones, and beating-up the joints. Whether your priority is the holy grail of size plus extreme leanness or it's performance in a given sport, I think there is no better way to address fat loss.

Philosophy

Have you ever seen that old flick with Arnold and Tom Platz, The Comeback? Ah, a Bible for bodybuilders if ever there was one; go find it! Not to sound too Buddhist but an intense focus on the feelings of the present moment, while lifting and lowering a weight, is phenomenal. And it's enjoyable. I promise I won't start quoting that old Arnold interview about how a pump is better than...

I have long been told that a "solitary way" is the path of the warrior. This is not to say one can't have a training partner but it's best to have no one-way dependence on anyone or anything. Acknowledge that intrinsic motivation is the key to success and cultivate your own motivation with music, meditation, pre-workout rituals and imagery, anything that stokes your fire. In this way, you will become what you want to be.

Well, that's the shoot-from-the-hip list for me, personally. I'm looking forward to seeing what the mental and physical juggernauts of the "T-Nation core" consider to be their Top Ten. In fact, I'd love to see you T-citizens with experience and/or education start your own thread about yourselves!