Q: Could you give me some advice on how to get my forearms to grow? They don't seem to want to budge at all, no matter what I do. I recently started using thick grips whenever possible to hopefully remedy the problem. Should I use thick grips on every exercise possible or vary the grip from exercise to exercise? Help turn me into Popeye!

A: Thick grips should be used as a source of training variety. Therefore you should vary the thickness of the handles the same way you vary your training parameters, i.e. reps, sets, tempo and rest intervals. In other words, use thick grips on certain exercises for a predetermined amount of time. Then, when you plan a new workout program, use them on another exercise. The key, of course, is to continually provide new methods of stimulation.

Here's a little trick you can try that should trigger more growth in your forearms when you do wrists curls. For this method, a one-arm low pulley works best. Do your wrists curls like everybody does, with your forearms on your thighs and your upper body leaning over the forearms. This method will recruit the flexor digitorum profondus, but NOT the flexor digitorum superficialis (but you already knew that, right?). Use a load that allows you to do 8 to 12 reps. Once you reach muscular failure, stand up and back away from the low pulley (while still holding onto the handle). Now with the elbows locked and the upper arm at 45 degrees in relation to the ground, continue your set of wrist curls. The elbow-extended position will allow you to better access the flexor digitorum superficialis, thus creating a greater overload on a higher proportion of motor units in your forearms. And don't forget to load up on the spinach!!!

Q: I'm a fan of yours because everything you've ever written has worked for me. I have one big problem, though my legs. I'm 186 cm tall, weigh 96 kg, and am a lifetime natural. My problem is that my upper leg size (quad and hams) isn't what it's supposed to be (I do have great calves, though). I can barely squat 120 kg for 6 reps, although I can bench more than that. Please help with some kind of a routine for upper legs because the rest of my body grows quite well (even better since trying some of your ideas).

A: This a very legitimate question, but could you please be more...vague?

It is hard to suggest a routine since I don't have a clue as to how you're training legs now. In the future, if anyone wants to ask me these types of questions, please, please, include your present routines.

I'll do my best to give you some advice, though. Keep in mind that what works for one body part may not work at all for another one. For example, French bodybuilding coach Rene Meme told me that IFBB pro bodybuilder Francis Benafatto had problems making his legs grow for the longest time. Why? Because he was using the same loading parameters for his legs as he was for his arms, which were his strong point. Once he started training them completely differently than his arms, they responded. In fact, they grew 5 cm larger in only 6 weeks.

In the meantime, let me suggest the following routine; it should keep you limping for days. (Up to a certain point, the more myofibrillar damage you inflict, the more growth.)

A) Full squats, 4 sets of 5-8 reps, done on a 501 tempo (take 5 seconds to lower the weight, no pause, and 1 second to rise to the starting position). Superset these with lunges, 4 sets of 10-12 reps, done on a 20X tempo (where X means as explosively as possible). Rest 3-4 minutes between supersets.

B) Leg curls, 4 sets of 5-8 reps, done on a 501 tempo. Superset these with Romanian deadlifts (essentially the same as straight leg deadlifts, but keep the knees slightly bent), 4 sets of 10-12 reps, done on a 301 tempo. Rest 3-4 minutes between supersets.

That routine should jolt your quads and hams into new growth.

Q: I know that if you're doing specialization work with a certain body part, you're supposed to cut back on the volume for other body parts, so as not to cut into the gains you might be making. If I follow your arm specialization program from the "Max Weights" article, how do I incorporate the chest, back, and legs into my routine, without taking away from my arm development? Can I still make gains, let's say in my chest, despite cutting back in the amount of sets I'm doing, or can I only expect to maintain my chest development? Thank you for your time and patience.

A: When embarking on a specialization program, I suggest you cut back 40% on the number of sets used for other body parts. You will still make gains on these other body parts, but obviously not at the rate of the body part you've targeted for specialization. If you didn't cut back, what then would be then the essence of your specialization work?

Q: I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. I'm 6-foot-2, 218 pounds, 17% body fat, and 25 years old. I've been bodybuilding for 1 year and I'm caught up in a dilemma: Should I cut up now to a single digit body fat percentage or not worry about a little flab and just go on and get massive? I plan to compete at about 235-240 at 5% body fat.

A: Lose the fat first, then worry about gaining quality muscle. The practice of bulking up first may in fact increase the number of fat cells, and once you develop fat cells, you can never really get rid of them only shrink them. I would strongly suggest you get below 10% first. If you train properly, you can do it in 7 weeks or so. Losing a few pounds of body fat in that time period is quite realistic, particularly if you increase your intake of good fats like fish oil, and flax or borage oil.

Q: I want to take advantage of your special book offer. I want to pre-order your arm training book and your second edition of the Poliquin Principles (I already have the first one). I will send you my credit card data via fax if I get a number from you. While I'm at it, I have a few questions, too. You mentioned a few times that: 1) if you train for relative strength, TUT [time-under-tension] should be under 20 seconds, 2) if you train for hypertrophy, TUT should be around 40-70 seconds, and 3) you adapt to a routine in 6 training sessions or less.

How did you arrive at those numbers? Is this just your personal experience, or have other coaches found the same thing? Are there any studies to prove the numbers?

A: To pre-order the arm training book, you can fax us at 719-473-7479. Or, you can call the Biotest order line at 800-525-1940.

The time-under-tension figures are the results of scientific research on substrate utilization curves, motor unit recruitment, and exercise protocol comparisons, to name a few, plus the practical experience of myself and other strength coaches.

Keep in mind that I have also mentioned many times before that empirical and experimental evidence have shown that hypertrophy can occur with sets of time-under-tension that are below 20 seconds. There are plenty of massive powerlifters, e.g., Roger Estep, and weightlifters like Arakelov and Rigert who have developed extraordinary hypertrophy levels using sets of 3 reps or less. That is why I advocated low-rep training in my "Maximal Weights" article. Over the years, I have built my arms up to over 19 inches in girth with sets averaging only 3 reps.

Conversely, training for hypertrophy with sets that are between 40-70 seconds long in duration will also increase maximal strength, as there is a correlation between size increases and strength increases, but not necessarily a correlation between strength and cross-section. In other words, Bob with a 14-inch arm may curl and press more than his training partner Bill, who has a 16 inch-arm. Of course, if you increase Bob's cross-section to the point where he has a 16-inch arm, you can be sure his maximal strength will further increase.

Please don't write me for references, though. I am a strength coach, not a librarian. I used to forward the references for such inquiries but it started to take too much time. Strangely enough, I normally get these questions in March and November, which is about the same time university students in exercise physiology are scrambling to do term papers and are too lazy to do their own research.

I do not mean to give the impression that my training beliefs are accepted by everybody, though. For instance, frequent Internet-poster and alleged exercise physiologist Mel Siff recently had yet another post on the Internet questioning the validity of my TUT figures. Instead of coming up with logical and practical solutions for the reader, he simply as is customary for him attempted to "answer" a question by asking a series of questions.

In answer to that particular posting, I recently received a communication from top Australian strength coach Ian King. King wrote:

"On the subject of answering questions with questions, I respect the power of a question. Many leading authors quote 'questions are answers.' However the practitioner needs more than questions to survive he needs answers, or at least paradigms with which to guide their actions

"In the interim, Mel perhaps could provide his interpretation of TUT, it's relationship with specific adaptations, and guidelines for the practitioner. For in reality what Charles has presented in his TUT guidelines are nothing more than paradigms. Paradigms that I support and use daily.

"In relation to finding the 'right answer,' I refer to Jacob Bronowski in 'Ascent of Man,' who wrote '...there is no right absolute knowledge, and those who claim it whether they are scientists or dogmatists open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility....' On the subject of humility, perhaps Mel could use some...."

As far as the six workout rule is concerned, that one that results from my experience. I am not the only one to come to that conclusion, though. Powerlifting coach extraordinaire Louie Simmons came to the same observations while coaching at Westside Barbell Club. But many top weightlifting experts such as Bud Charniga will confirm that observation, too. Please keep in mind that this rule applies to about two-thirds of individuals; some individuals like Olympic Gold medalist Pierre Lueders adapt much more quickly, while some others may take 8 to 10 workouts to adapt. Former Soviet Union sport scientist Rodionov established a few decades ago that 4 weeks is probably the longest one should be on the same programs before the trainee actually starts to regress. More recent studies on variety in training conducted in Australia and the US have demonstrated the superiority of periodization models over constant training regimens.

On a final note, if you wait for sport science to come up with the perfect loading parameters for training, you can end up passing up on one or two Olympics; a few Mr. Olympias, or a half-dozen Super Bowls.

Q: Hi! I'm interested in buying your new book, "Winning the Arms Race." However, previous purchases of other arm books have left me disappointed (Manfred Hoeberl, Larry Scott, etc.). What's so different about yours?

A: I have yet to meet a bodybuilder who is satisfied with his arm development. "Winning the Arms Race" helps deal with this frustrating issue. One of the first chapters deals with the truth about arm measurements. When pro bodybuilders quote arm measurements, one can use a simple tried-and-true conversion factor in calculating the real-life arm measurement. For those of you have had advanced math training, this amounts to subtracting 1.5 inches off the quoted measurements. In other words, many pro bodybuilders exaggerate about their arms in the same manner that insecure men lie about the length of their love tools. This chapter also contains a very interesting mathematical formula that indicates how much you'll actually need to weigh to attain a given arm measurement. Based on this formula, you'll know how a former Mr. Olympia who claimed 22-inch arms would have needed to weigh 308 pounds to sport such measurements. Interesting, isn't it? Particularly in view of the fact that his best contest body weight was 235 pounds.

My book is different in many aspects. For example:

  • Exercises are rated based on their effectiveness. I've also included the best way to perform these particular movements.
  • I've included plenty of routines with useful tips on how to customize
    them to meet your individual needs.
  • There are also plenty of chapters on topics related to arm development such as goal setting, measurements, and strength norms. I've also included a section on supplements and how to best cycle them.

I suppose the main reason you may want to purchase this book is that it contains dozens of arm routines which will allow you to bring your arms to measurements you never dreamed of. Now, isn't that a good enough reason?