This is Lucky 13, a rapid fire Q & A session with a training or nutrition expert who matters. It's fast, furious, and to the point.
Last time we talked to Chad Waterbury; this time we traveled to the wilds of Canada to talk to strength coach extraordinaire, Christian Thibaudeau. Aren't you lucky?
Question #1: You've been a competitive lifter and a competitive bodybuilder. Which one is more fun?
Thibaudeau: For me it was bodybuilding. The sheer joy of posing in a Speedo in front of a crowd of 600 men screaming at the top of their lungs is something special!
Obviously, I'm kidding.
Seriously, bodybuilding was more satisfying for me because it's not something I'm built to do. It also isn't something people would've believed I could do considering that I've always been on the chubby side of things. You could say that, for me, bodybuilding was a way to fulfill a former fat boy's fantasy!
When it comes to strength, it's always been a bit easier for me, especially on the squat and related lifts. So while I loved strength competitions, it wasn't as rewarding to me as bodybuilding.
Question #2: If you weren't a strength coach or involved in training in any way, what would you be?
Thibaudeau: As odd as it may sound, I'd probably be involved either in politics or communication in some way. Few people know this, but I actually studied political science before starting my B.Sc. in exercise science.
I'm a very good communicator, which helps when giving seminars. But I have a conscience, so I probably would've had a lousy career as a politician.
Question #3: Your girlfriend is a competitive bodybuilder. Honestly, how incredible is the sex?
Thibaudeau: Honestly? Well, we periodize our sexual relationship! When either one of us is preparing for a competition and thus on a severe diet, libido goes down. This is due to an increased SHBG activity and a decreased Testosterone level. Obviously, chemically aided bodybuilders don't have that problem since they're using Testosterone injections and products such as proviron, which can bind to SHBG more effectively than Testosterone.
However, I must say that otherwise it's great. Her body is the most firm I've ever seen and the feeling really can't be explained with words! Everywhere you touch is super firm and hard. Not to mention that she has a very good cardiovascular system and tons of power in her hips!
Question #4: What's one exercise that every bodybuilder and athlete should be doing, but probably isn't?
Thibaudeau: It's not so much an exercise as it is a method of training. I feel that most North American athletes aren't in very good general shape compared to their European counterparts. To me this shows the flagrant need for more GPP (general physical preparation) work during the off-season.
I think that athletes should perform a lot of work with sandbags, sleds, and sledgehammers. These tools allow the athlete to improve both aerobic and anaerobic capacity while building usable strength and power. Sandbag lifts (clean, press, push press, row, curl) and carries (arms under bag, bear hug, overhead) will build tremendous core strength and stability. In fact, in that regard, sandbags can kick any wobble board or Swiss ball's ass!
Sleds are great to build strength-endurance when pulling heavy weights slowly (walking) and anaerobic power and capacity when pulling lighter loads fast (running). I feel that energy system work using sleds is the way to go for athletes.
Finally, sledgehammer drills will build tremendous power, not to mention hand, forearm, and torso strength. They can also be used to build anaerobic power and capacity by using a Tabata approach (20 seconds intense striking, 10 seconds of rest, repeat 8 times).
Question #5: Name one supplement you'd never give up.
Thibaudeau: One? You're kinda being hard on me there. Over the past four or five years, two supplements have always been in my daily routine: protein powder and Power Drive.
I will say that I use Low-Carb Grow! about 90% of the time because I feel that it's the best protein product on the market. However, there are times when I drink so many shakes (busy schedule) that I go through my monthly supply early and have to rely on less effective products (don't tell anyone, though). But the funny thing is that my body seems to notice that and doesn't recover as well when I'm out of Grow! Go figure!
Question #6: What other coach or trainer in this general field do you respect the most?
Thibaudeau: There isn't one in particular because I admire many coaches for different reasons, but Poliquin would definitely be on the list. Without him, none of us would be making a living training people. He's also a very solid coach and is better at marketing himself that anybody in the business.
Fellow Canadian coaching phenom, Charles Poliquin.
Then I like Louie Simmons for his attitude and way of thinking: never being satisfied with his product, always looking for new ways of improving his system.
I also deeply respect Chad Nichols, the best bodybuilding coach in the world. His work with tons of athletes (Ronnie Coleman for example) speaks volumes about his knowledge in all the areas involved in building muscle.
Question #7: What woman, besides your girlfriend of course, would you like to dip your icicle into?
Thibaudeau: Trick question, man! I see what you're doing here! You want Christiane to read this and break up with me so that you can try to have her. You cheeky bastard!
Seriously, I've always been a one-woman man and in Christiane I found everything I've ever dreamed of in a woman: she looks great, has a dynamite body, loves training, and is just a sweetheart! Not to mention that she could probably annihilate any woman I might consider for icicle duty!
Question #7.5: Snore! You're dodging the question! Come on, who would you nail?
Thibaudeau: Okay, okay, I'll play fair with you and go with the woman who filled many of my dreams as a young training buck: Monica Brandt.
Christiane and Monica. Is there a pattern here?
Question #8: What questions about training do you get from T-Nation readers that make you want to choke them to death slowly while whispering vile French things in their ears?
Thibaudeau: I really don't like when someone asks me a short question and ends by asking me to write a program for them in the reply. It's true that I sometimes write sample programs in my answers to illustrate the concept I'm describing. However, clients pay me, and pay me well, to design programs for them. So giving this stuff away for free isn't cool for them.
I want to help any way I can, and will always go the extra mile in that regard. But don't ask for a complete program on the fly!
Question #9: What lift or sporting achievement of yours are you most proud of?
Thibaudeau: I once snatched 142.5kg (313.5 pounds) in training. I was using straps though. I've got small hands and that always limited me when competing since straps aren't allowed. I also power cleaned 160kg (352 pounds) from the hang for five reps. Oddly enough, my best squat clean never topped 165kg!
Question #10: Pussy. Now, a couple of years ago you made a major physical transformation. What was the biggest lesson you learned from this experience?
Thibaudeau: Well, I learned two important things, one about myself and one about others. First, I learned that with proper dedication and effort I was able to beat genetics and turn what should have been a soft and chubby would-be man into a magnificent specimen! Seriously, if I was able to get those results, then anybody can. I kid you not – I'm just not programmed to be lean.
About others, I learned that many people act differently toward you depending on your looks. Many people who ignored me or disrespected me when I was a fat body were super friendly once I got lean and muscular.
This is also true of athletes: most didn't trust me as my fatter former self, even though I was benching over 400 and squatting over 600 at the time. However, I had to start rejecting clients when I got into shape because the demand was so high. I find this really degrading and sad.
Question #11: If you were gay and wanted to pork a nutrition expert, would you sleep with Dr. John Berardi or Dr. Lonnie Lowery?
Thibaudeau: Did you run out of serious questions to ask? Did JB ask you to write this question? Oh, alright. No disrespect to Lonman, but there can only be one bald person in a couple, otherwise it's eerie. So it would have to be JB because of his smashing good looks and very large and developed ... recipe book!
Yep, that's Dr. Berardi's "come hither" look. Either that or he forgot his lunch and is looking at yours.
Question #12: What's the single best gym gadget or training tool out there, not counting the basic stuff like barbells and dumbbells?
Thibaudeau: Basic stuff like barbells and dumbbells! Seriously, the best not-free-weight stuff would be resistance bands and weight releasers. With the former being of a slightly higher rating in my book.
Bands can be used with the max effort method to overload the whole range of motion, with the dynamic effort method to develop more power, and with the repetition method to build more size since it places more eccentric stress than a regular load.
Question #13: Describe the biggest cheat meal you've ever eaten.
Thibaudeau: Now that's a fun question! We go back about three years or so. In fact, it was on the fifth week of my initial "transformation." At the time I used the Anabolic Diet which consists of eating only 50 grams of carbs or less during the week, but ingesting a ton of carbs on the weekend.
Well, the fifth week of the diet I start to have an odd craving for doughnuts. I say "odd" because that's not an item I normally fancy. On Friday the urge becomes almost intolerable, but somehow I'm able to make it through the day. At around 10:00pm I decide to go on a long walk, only to find myself walking in front of a Tim Horton's (Canada's answer to Dunkin Donuts).
Even though it's almost 11:00pm on Friday, I can't eat any. (Yeah, I'm very anal retentive sometimes). But the desire is just too hard to resist. So I walk in and order a dozen to go. I still can't eat them though. Remember, no carb-up until Saturday.
So when I get home I leave the doughnuts next to my bed, set the alarm for 5:00am, and go to sleep. As soon as the marvelous tone of the buzzer wakes me up, I open the box and eat the whole dozen in about three minutes and then go back to sleep! That was the beginning of the day, which was filled with other similar pleasures!
Thirteen questions, thirteen answers. Done!