Hello, T-Nation peckerheads! I'm the Critic. My job in this new article series is to call out various T-Nation contributors and put them on the firing line.
I'm the devil's advocate, the devious detractor, and the bitchy belittler... ; you know, just like you guys who make venomous posts all night on the forums because you're pissed off that you can't pull women and have nothing better to do on Friday night. Only I'm getting paid for it. Suckers.
In this installment, my target is Chad "Goldilocks" Waterbury.
The Critic: Okay, pretty boy, total body training vs. split routines: You say that full body weight training sessions are far superior. Unfortunately for you, not a single pro-bodybuilder or figure competitor uses them! Gee, if total body training was so good, you'd think people who make a living off their bodies would use it! What do you say to that, Prince Valiant?
Chad Waterbury: Total body workouts are superior for anyone with average genetics who's trying to add more than ten pounds of muscle across their entire body.
A total body workout will recruit more total motor units; it trains the body the way it's designed to work (as a whole unit and not segmental structures); and it allows someone to train with a higher frequency. And that's why many of the early bodybuilding greats advocated total body sessions. They advocated them for the same reason I do: because they work.
But as soon as steroids came into play, everything changed. Many bodybuilders realized that steroids allowed them to follow body part splits and still gain plenty of muscle. Since people are often like water – they search for the path of least resistance – it's no surprise that body part splits became popular.
Any workout comprised of heavy squats, deads, presses, and pulls poses a formidable challenge. Have you ever spent time around professional bodybuilders and took note of their fitness levels? Many can't climb a single flight of stairs without gasping for breath, so it's no surprise that they often have an aversion to total body workouts.
Elite bodybuilders typically don't follow total body programs because they don't need to. They don't need to add significant amounts of muscle across their entire body; they typically only need to build up specific areas. That's why body part splits work for them. And they don't need the fitness levels of someone like a MMA fighter, rugby player, or strongman competitor. How many of the top strongman competitors follow body part splits? I'll tell you: none.
I'll pose another question: How many coaches who predominantly work with natural trainees advocate body part splits? Very few. How many coaches who train drug-using bodybuilders with incredible genetics advocate body part splits? Most of them. That truism alone should tell you something about the impact that steroids and genetics have on the issue.
The Critic: Blah, blah, blah... ; Have you ever even trained a competitive bodybuilder or fitness competitor, or is all this some silly theory you came up with to sell books?
Waterbury: I despise questions like this for a myriad of reasons. First off, who I'm training, or have trained, really means nothing.
There are many coaches out there who found a golden goose, and it wasn't because of anything other than pure luck. So these coaches often reference this golden goose in every conversation they have. But the fact of the matter is that these same coaches have rarely produced champions other than the goose. A commercial health club personal trainer with nothing more than a GED and a weekend fitness certification could've taken Arnold to the top because he was one such goose.
Second, imagine "Mr. X" comes to me and is considering hiring me as his coach. Now, if he asks me for my clientele resume, how relevant is it to what Mr. X needs? Just because I took Mr. Y to the top doesn't mean that Mr. X is the same animal. That's why many bodybuilding coaches have failed to successfully train strength athletes. And that's why many strength coaches have failed to successfully train bodybuilders.
It's important to hire coaches who understand the multi-faceted aspects of physiology and biomechanics, and who've worked with people like yourself. For a natural, skinny-fat 19 year old to hire a professional bodybuilding coach who only works with steroid-infused, genetic freaks would prove to be a lesson in futility. And that's why it's important to hire coaches with plenty of training experience in various realms.
I know many of the top coaches, and I can tell you that the ones who get the best results are the ones who've worked with the greatest variance of fitness levels. These coaches get the best results because they understand how to overcome the limitations that virtually everyone has. A coach who's only worked with elite athletes is rarely the best coach.
My first highly-conditioned client was a Muay Thai fighter, but I spent most of my early years coaching people with average genetics. I had to pull out every trick in the book to get those average people to excel. So when the time came that I could work with elite people, I'd developed a deep bag of tricks. This never would've happened if I hadn't worked with average non-athletes.
Third, I've never positioned myself as a bodybuilding coach. I'm a performance coach who discovered effective ways to build muscle by first seeking to improve a person's strength performance. I take that knowledge and apply it to competitive bodybuilders whenever it's necessary, but it's not my market.
Finally, if I listed every competitive bodybuilder or fitness professional that I'm currently working with or have worked with, what would that prove? Nothing. There are coaches who've paid high-level athletes to say they've been trained by these same coaches. How sad is that?
A coach who goes around bragging about who he trains is nothing more than an insecure person who knows he doesn't have the knowledge to back up his contrived status. Focusing on people instead of principles is a sure sign that a coach only has one trick in his bag. Plus, a professional coach respects a client's privacy, and I hold tight to that policy.
What impresses me most is when I see a trainer do extraordinary things with an ordinary person. What doesn't impress me is seeing a coach do ordinary things with an extraordinary person.
The Critic: You're always harping about training frequently, more than twice per week per muscle group, sometimes four to five times per week! This sounds like "do the opposite" marketing to me. Since the Weider mags and most real bodybuilders hit muscle groups only once every five days or so, you come out with the opposite and throw a lot of scientific jargon around. How convenient.
Waterbury: How convenient, indeed! Seriously though, as I've mentioned before, the genesis of my high frequency training (HFT) philosophy was at Cirque du Soleil's Mystere a few years back. I simply couldn't get the show out of my head. The level of athleticism and physical beauty that's on display trumps anything you can imagine.
The single element that kept surfacing in my search for their training methods was frequency. Those performers were training with a level of frequency that I'd only heard about in the Eastern Bloc countries. It definitely wasn't the methods I was reading about in newsstand muscle magazines, so I immediately knew that there was indeed something good about frequency.
Then I started thinking about the most dramatic gains that I'd ever made. I used to work in an apartment complex over the summers and one of my jobs was to lug mattresses up and down stairwells. I added something like an inch to my forearms in one month by grabbing and pulling those mattresses for five days each week.
I was sore as hell for the first few weeks, but eventually the soreness subsided and my strength was higher than it had ever been. So, I applied a critical eye to the real world and analyzed the development of muscles trained with a very high frequency and volume.
Save for emaciated marathon runners, take any athlete in any sport and look at the muscles that dominate his sport. You'll realize that these same muscles are the proportionally largest muscle groups on his body.
For example, the thigh muscles are dominant players in 100M sprinting, cycling, speed skating, and downhill skiing. The upper back, shoulder girdle, and upper arms are dominant in the rings and pummel horse events. Take a good look at those muscle groups on the aforementioned athletes and tell me that high frequency training with a high volume isn't the best way to build muscle.
Soon it all started to coalesce in my brain and I began experimenting with various frequency techniques. Then I released Bodybuilding's Next Frontier and the rest, as they say, is history. It's my most successful program ever. But it's not for beginners, so refrain from that program unless you have at least two years of continuous weight training under your belt.
The Critic: Two years of continuous training? Some T-Nation readers are too busy typing and arguing! Who has time to actually lift?
Next topic. You say never to train to failure. Too bad everyone who actually looks like they lift weights does this very thing! Training to failure works. To stop short of failure is just to wimp out!
Waterbury: There certainly are times when training to failure is acceptable, so I need to qualify my position on the topic. For single joint exercises, I think training to failure is okay and sometimes beneficial. But is it necessary? I've never seen a situation where training to balls-out failure resulted in more hypertrophy than simply training with a moderate balance of intensity, volume, and speed.
I look at training from a fatigue management standpoint. And I think Charles Staley will agree with me on this. The key to successful training is dependant on managing fatigue, as he's eloquently stated on numerous occasions.
Failure training, especially with big compound exercises, accumulates more fatigue than any other type of training. That can be both good and bad, depending on how well you control fatigue. Sure, fatigue is an inevitable aspect of training, and approaching a person's ceiling of fatigue management is necessary to develop fitness levels. But at what cost?
With single joint exercises, the cost is very low. I mean, how much central and peripheral nervous system fatigue can a set of preacher curls induce? Not much, even if you did multiple sets to failure. Now imagine what an impact a set of full squats taken to hell-raising failure will do to your nervous system, muscles, tendons, and ligaments?
The logical basis of failure training is that it recruits most of your motor units. That's true, but you can also recruit most of your motor unit pool by attempting to lift large loads as fast as possible.
For example, 90% of your 1RM isn't going to move quickly, regardless of how fast you attempt to move it. But that's okay. It's the effort to move a large load quickly that results in the recruitment of most of your motor unit pool. And when you attempt to move large loads quickly, you don't need to reach failure. And by not reaching failure, you're more apt to manage fatigue. Got it?
The Critic: Whatever. A lot of your programs also involve multiple low-rep sets. But everyone knows that you need 8-12 reps to be in the hypertrophy zone. Duh. You'd think a "professional" like you would figure that out!
Waterbury: Hmm, well, a "professional" like me has figured out that people often respond best to what they haven't been doing. Since most people don't perform 8 or 10 sets of low reps with a large load, I advocate such parameters for the majority of T-Nation readers.
If the dogma of bodybuilding was to perform 8 sets of 3 reps, you'd hear me extolling the virtues of 8-12 rep sets. It's as simple as that.
The Critic: What are your stats anyway? Do you even work out or are you one of those "all mouth, no muscle" types?
Waterbury: My stats? Are you referring to me standing or lying horizontal?
Just like the "who do you train?" question, I don't think my aesthetic stats matter. I'm a performance coach and that's my market, so my athletic stats might matter to some people. And no one has the ability to intuitively know how well I can perform by simply looking at me.
Second, whether I can deadlift 700 pounds or 400 pounds isn't as important as knowing how much I improved my initial performance. Bill Kazmier said the first time he trained the deadlift he pulled something like 500 pounds. And this was as a teenager! Now imagine if he'd been strength training for the following six years and his deadlift performance went up to 600 pounds. If he told people on the street that he could deadlift 600 pounds, they'd think it's outstanding. But it wouldn't be outstanding because his theoretical six-year gain from baseline would've only been 20%.
Now, compare that to a guy who could only pull 185 his first time, and who improved his performance up to 400 pounds after 18 months of training. Which is more impressive?
Now, let me apply a similar thought process to my physique. Why are my aesthetics so important? What's most important is how much I've improved over the 6'3", 165 pound weakling that I started with.
And what if I got sick and was bedridden for three months? Would I be a less effective coach after I got out of the hospital because I lost muscle and gained fat while sick?
The only measurements that are relevant to a coach is how big his brain is and what kind of results he gets with his clients. What's not important is how big his biceps are.
If I positioned myself as a bodybuilding coach, my aesthetics might play a bigger role because a bodybuilder wins or loses based on how he looks, nothing more. Athletes don't win fights, games, or medals based on how they look. Does Fedor look like a bodybuilder? Hell no, but he's one of the baddest mothers to ever compete in mixed martial arts.
I have a friend who watches UFC fights but he really knows nothing about training and performance. After the second Ortiz/Shamrock match, he said to me, "How could Shamrock have lost? He looked much more ripped than Ortiz!" That's a scary thought process right there.
I've spent the last few years using myself as a crash test dummy. I've fluctuated between many different weights and body fat percentages. My highest weight was around 290, but my body fat was in the mid to upper teens. I simply wanted to know how it felt to be that big. But it wasn't long before I realized that I didn't like carrying around that much weight.
Now I'm at my ideal weight and body fat percentage and I maintain a lean physique year-round. And most important, my strength, stamina, and mobility are at an all-time high.
The Critic: Looks to me like you're jacked up on steroids. Fess up.
Waterbury: I've never taken any steroids. I don't need to. I know how to train. If I wanted twenty more pounds of muscle, I'd have it. But I don't because my current proportions and fitness levels allow me to excel in the sports that interest me – mainly fighting.
And the thought of me on steroids, training the way I do, and listening to Slayer kinda frightens me. After all, I might become a raging lunatic because everyone who takes steroids is a menace to society, right? Well, that's what the news media tells me so it must be true. I don't need that kind of added stress in my life!
The Critic: Speaking of stress, what was up with that bimbo training article of yours? You're just trying to piss people off, aren't you?
Waterbury: Ah yes, Sexy Female Training. I wondered when you, in all your criticalness, were going to bring that up.
Then again, maybe you're referring to my position on total body training? Or maybe you're referring to my position on failure training? Or maybe you're referring to the fact that I say most people should focus on the nervous system instead of the muscles? Or maybe you're referring to my unrelenting talk of guns, whores, and booze?
The "Sexy Female Training" article got totally blown out of proportion because no one cared to look at the actual program. Thankfully, someone made a post and brought it to light. That's good because I'm not here to point out the obvious.
That program is tough! If I would've posted pictures of one of my strength athletes doing those same exercises with a rusty barbell, no one would've made those comments about the program. But the fact that I chose to post pictures of a female doing bodyweight versions of many of the exercises made people assume that it was a pussy workout (no pun intended).
I'd love to do a test where I take "experienced" guys and put them on the SFT program. I bet 80% of them wouldn't even make it through, much less make it through without puking.
The Critic: That's probably true. You still need a haircut though, punk. Thanks for talking to the Critic today, Chad. It's been your privilege.