Crack Open My Cranium

by Chad Waterbury

I've compiled a list of random topics based on a number of
conversations I've had with my colleagues over the last few weeks,
along with a few topics pulled out of the fiery depths of pitchfork
swinging hell. Yes, I'm talking about the Internet

Anyway, here are some of my thoughts.


Take any physique that sports double-digit body fat and drop it
to 8%. What do you get? A much more impressive display of physical
prowess. The Internet flame throwers who think Brad Pitt's physique
in Fight Club was too skinny, weak, or whatever else, are
completely missing the point. The point is that his body looked a
helluva lot more muscular at 6% body fat compared to

fight club

"You are not your body fat!"

Head-turning muscularity requires leanness. There's nothing
impressive about 16% body fat on a guy, regardless of his

What does it take to get lean? If I listed all the steps you'd
probably say, "I already know that."

Here's what I mean: If I told you to consume one gram of protein
per pound of body weight, fibrous vegetables, water, green tea, 12
grams of fish oil, and spread those out over the course of six
meals each day you'd be anything but impressed. But if I held you
in captivity and forced you to do that every day for a month, you'd
be blown away by the results. The nutritional methods to lose fat
have already been found. The challenge we coaches face is figuring
out how we're going to get you to adhere to the guidelines.

Ask any natural guy how he got to single-digit body fat and
there won't be one thing he says that surprises you. There's
nothing complicated about fat loss.

However, some methods are better than others. The key difference
is how much muscle you have to sacrifice to reach single digits.
Huge guys can afford to lose some muscle, and they often do.
Skinny-fat guys must take all measures to add muscle while they're
leaning. Specifically, their hormonal profile must be corrected
because their shitty hormones gave them a skinny-fat physique in
the first place.

skinny fat

Skinny-fat guys need to get their hormones into

Hormonally-speaking, you must control insulin, minimize
cortisol, and boost testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1. This
goes for everyone, not just skinny-fat types.

In order to preserve muscle you should focus on training methods
that stimulate a large portion of your motor unit pool and
challenge anaerobic glycolysis (the energy system that makes you
feel nauseous). If a workout aimed at fat-burning isn't making you
feel nauseous, you're not training hard enough, or you're
challenging the wrong energy system.

The simplest way to challenge anaerobic glycolysis is to shorten
your rest periods and add more reps. And you must choose exercises
that stimulate as much total muscle mass as possible. A snatch is
better than a squat, which is better than a one-arm row. Single
joint exercises have no place in the part of a training program
that's intended to burn fat.

The most important factor in determining whether or not you can
gain muscle while losing fat is time. The less time you have, the
more likely it is that you'll lose muscle.

And if you have to ask whether you should cut or bulk first, you
should cut.

big gut

He should cut.

Muscle Building

Optimal muscularity requires, well, muscle. The more muscle you
have, the better you'll look once you reach single-digit body fat.

The system I typically use to add muscle as quickly as possible
starts with the following:

1. Perform three total body workouts per week with at least 48
hours rest between each session.

2. Perform an upper-body pull and push along with a squat or
deadlift in each session.

3. Use different variations of each movement throughout the
week, with single-limb exercises being employed at least half of
the time.

4. For each movement, aim for around 25 total reps with a
load you could lift 6-7 times (for one set).

Those four parts comprise the base of the system. What you add,
and where you add it, is specific to the person. Curls, side
raises, calf raises, etc. only come into play if time and energy
allow for it.

If you can train at least four times per week, if you have a
limited capacity to recover, and if you typically need a lot of
volume to grow, an upper/lower split is an excellent option.

Take two guys, for example. Both are 5'10", 165 pounds, 14% body
fat, and both have the same genetic make-up. One guy wants to build
a body that looks and moves like Georges St. Pierre, the other
wants his body to look and move like Dorian Yates.

<!-- GSPDorian Yates

The rules of muscle-building don't change, regardless of your


Should these two guys use different muscle-gaining methods? No.
The rules of building muscle don't change whether you're trying to
add five or 50 pounds of muscle. You must focus on getting stronger
and increasing your training volume. For those who have the luxury,
the most effective way to increase volume is through a higher

Should these guys use different exercises to gain muscle? Yes,
and this is the biggest difference between training a bodybuilder
and an athlete. A guy who wants to move like an athlete must train
with movements that challenge stability across the entire body and
that force the joints to work through a full range of motion. A
bodybuilder doesn't need to do pistols, but a combat athlete does.
And a barbell bench press from chest to lockout is not a
full range of motion exercise when you consider the function of the
shoulder blades.

Should one follow a total body workout and the other follow an
upper/lower split? Probably. Most bodybuilders need to train with
more volume per body part than an athlete. Therefore, upper/lower
splits are good for them. But keep in mind that an upper/lower
split is where the conversation ends if you need to gain more than
10 pounds of muscle.

skinny kid

This kid should stay away from body part splits for a

A chest/back, legs/abs, and shoulders/arms split each week will
take you a helluva lot longer to gain 10 pounds of muscle compared
to the protocol I prescribed above. Don't let anyone tell you

Here's my dream challenge, if I had a million bucks to spare.
I'd like to take the coaches who are the biggest proponents of body
part splits and challenge them to add 10 pounds of muscle to a
natural guy as quickly as possible. The coaches can train the guy
for an hour, three times per week. The first coach to add 10 pounds
of pure muscle to his client gets a million bucks.

I guarantee you this: you wouldn't see a single body part

Intensity is not the most important component of building
muscle. If it were true, Arthur Jones would've found the holy grail
of training and we'd all be using his system. The most important
element is frequency with adequate intensity.


In terms of exercise selection, training an athlete for strength
isn't a whole lot different than training him for hypertrophy. An
athlete needs to build strength that carries over to the sport so
his exercises must challenge total body stability and improve joint
health, just like his muscle-building workouts should. The main
differences are loading and volume.

Take an athlete and test his 3RM for the squat. Then, put him on
the 10x10 method with the squat for three weeks. Retest his 3RM. If
he lost any less than 10% of his maximal strength, consider
yourself lucky. When training for maximal strength, lifting any
load that's less than 80% of your 1RM is a waste of

But you must keep in mind what the intended purpose of a method
really is. For example, saying that complexes don't build maximal
strength is inane. Complexes aren't designed to build maximal
strength, just like swimming isn't intended to boost your squat.

Crazy as it might sound to many Internet coaches, in-season
athletes have a very limited capacity to recover from maximal
strength sessions. That's because their sport requires significant
time and energy to perfect the skill. Therefore, the volume of
maximal strength work must be lower than it is for a weekend
warrior. I'm talking specifically about power/endurance athletes
like fighters, hockey players, etc.

A bodybuilder needs more strength too, but it doesn't really
matter how he develops it. Once you throw the need for performance
and joint integrity out the window, virtually any machine can build

The system I favor for adding strength as quickly as possible
starts with the following:

1. Perform two total body workouts per week, with at least 72
hours rest between each session.

2. Perform an upper-body pull and push, along with a squat or
deadlift in each session.

3. Use different variations of each movement throughout the
week, with single-limb exercises being employed at least half of
the time.

4. For each movement, aim for around 15 total reps with a load
you could lift 2-4 times.

What I add to the list depends on what the athlete needs. Most
often, exercises that improve joint health and correct strength
imbalances are the focus. Examples are face pulls, the ab wheel,
and X-band walks. For corrective exercises, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
per set is a good standard.


An athlete's endurance training should come from practicing his
sport. That's, of course, assuming his sport challenges endurance.
A boxer should box. A wrestler should wrestle. A soccer player
should play soccer. A cyclist should cycle. This ensures his
endurance development is specific to his needs.

I think strength training information is about 20 years behind
where it should be at this point. And I think endurance training
information is another 30 years behind strength training. And it's
getting worse.

We need to stop focusing on heart rate zones, treadmill jogs,
interval training, and the like. Instead, we should get back to
what we did as a kid.

Play a damn sport!

Raise some hell in the park!

Sprint, leap, zig zag, fall down, jump up, throw an empty beer
can at your buddy, hop a fence, run up a hill, climb a tree, steal
a bicycle and pedal like hell.

<!-- tree lady

Forget the treadmill. Go climb a tree.


For three days each week do challenging, complex activities that
force your body to work at different intensities, and move in
different directions. Do this for around 30 minutes and forget
about the rest.


Managing fatigue is the most essential component when training
athletes. The key to making it through a total body workout is to
avoid doing four rounds of triple drop sets with the preacher curl.

There's way too much emphasis put on periodization schemes. Yes,
you must have a plan of attack, but no one can predict how an
athlete will respond. What happens when an athlete gets injured,
sick, or just feels like crap?

Elite athletes are a lot like luxury Italian sports cars. When
they run well, nothing beats them, but they require a lot of
fine-tuning. You can't predict when this will happen so you better
be able to adapt on the fly. A periodization plan should revolve
around what the athlete tells you, and what his performance shows
on that day. Since no Russian or Eastern European program can
predict the capricious nature of athletes, I avoid those


In terms of lifting a weight, the difference between "as fast as
possible" and any tempo slower than that is at the expense of motor
unit recruitment. I don't understand why any coach would tell a
healthy athlete to lift slower; fast as possible is a must (keep in mind, I'm talking specifically about the phase
when your muscles shorten against resistance).


A healthy athlete should lift as fast as

There are times when you should pause between reps, hold the
peak contraction for a full second, or slow down the eccentric
phase, slightly. But slow tempos, in general, make no sense.

Remember when I said that strength training information has
taken a major setback? It's mainly due to the incorporation of
tempo prescriptions.

My Certification Program

A colleague of mine recently suggested that I design a
certification program. So I decided to do it. Are you

Tell me why the human body can only maintain maximum motor
unit recruitment for approximately 10 seconds.

Answer that question, with all of the physiological systems in
mind, and you'll know more than 99% of the trainers in this

Now, where's my 500 bucks?