Q: I was reading through the May Muscle Media magazine and saw that author Paul Chek mentioned your name when he was talking about mesomorphs. I also note that most of your clients are elite-level athletes, who probably represent the best genetics on the planet. My question is this; how relevant are your training ideologies and workouts for trainers with less than elite genetics?

My concern is that you might personally find gaining muscle and strength easy and not really have empathy for the plight of "hardgainers" with bad bone structures, low recovery ability, low testosterone levels, etc. And, as most of your workouts have been designed for Olympic athletes, they might not be advantageous for genetically average trainers to try even those with significant muscle mass. I look forward to your answer.

A: As far as my training methods being impractical for the average trainer, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I get letters and emails every day from readers who are following my advice and finally making gains. Many of them used to see themselves as hardgainers, but are now putting on strength and mass.

Keep in mind that not every Olympic athlete I coach is genetically gifted. The truth is, most of them get there through hard work. One of the strongest guys I ever coached was Ian Danney, an athlete who competed at a bodyweight of 212 as a member of the bobsleigh team at the last Olympics. Three years ago he weighed 184 pounds, and three years before that he was a buck forty eight. But, through intelligent workouts and close attention to post-workout nutrition, he was able to pack on over 60 pounds of lean muscle mass.

You must consider that there are MANY factors that contribute to muscle growth including fiber types, number of muscle fibers per cross-section area, insertion points, and endogenous levels of anabolic hormones (i.e. testosterone, IGF-1, GH, etc.). Additionally, there are psychological attributes, like intelligence, which allow you to make decisions that allow you to put on muscle mass.

It's very rare for one to really suck on ALL factors. Therefore, gains can be made by off-setting certain factors. If you are born with lots of FT IIa [fast-twitch] fibers, why bust your ass trying to gain mass by training with low reps? In my case, even though I was blessed with a high FT make-up, I was plagued by a poor appetite. I had to make post-workout nutrition a science to gain size. I had other more serious problems, too. For instance, I had great insertions in the elbow flexors, but not in the lats, etc. Therefore, I had to find ways through readings, personal discussions, and experience to counter those training problems. (And sometimes, I felt that my mother didn't really love me like she loved my brother. Try training with that hanging around your neck!) I strongly believe that most hard gainers are hard gainers because they believe they are. It's the negative thoughts and beliefs that keep them small. For example, they're the ones buying medium sized T-shirts to make their physiques look better when they should be buying XXL and working towards filling them up. If you visualize it, it will happen.

Q: Where do you get good fat calipers?

A: I strongly believe that when you buy something, you should only buy once. Look for top quality, and you'll have a product for life. In my opinion the best calipers are the Harpenden calipers made by the British company John Bull Calipers. They are extremely accurate and reliable. I purchased a pair 12 years ago and I'm still very happy with them, and I recently purchased a second pair for another training center. They're expensive, though, as they run about $600.00. To purchase them, contact Novel Products at (800) 323-5143.

Q: Can you give me a list of worthy authors to read on the subject of strength training and bodybuilding?

A: Hey, what do you think I am? A librarian? I'll tell you what; I'll give you a list of strength-training authors, but you've got to do the leg work. You can consult the local medical library or the Internet to locate works by the following authors:

  • Hauptmann
  • Hartmann
  • Tünnemann
  • Bosco
  • Schmidtbleicher
  • Fleck
  • Kraemer
  • Komi
  • Häkkinen
  • Stone
  • Fry

As far as bodybuilding authors, I've always enjoyed the writing of Anthony Ditillo and Don Ross. These books can be purchased by contacting IRONMAN Books at (800) 447-0008.

Q: I'm trying to find the supplement phosphatidylserine that you mentioned in your "One Day Arm-Cure" article. Please tell me a little bit about this supplement as I don't have a clue what it is.

A: Phosphatidylserine is generally used for two purposes. Life extensionist types like it because it allegedly increases the number of neurotransmitter receptor sites on the brain, making you more mentally efficient. Bodybuilders and strength athletes in general, however, are interested in PS because there's evidence that it blocks cortisol from binding to sites on muscle tissue. If you train very, very hard, you may be suffering from a cortisol overload, thus making additional muscle gains difficult. Users should be careful not to overdose on the supplement as some cortisol is needed for good health. If you take too much, you may find yourself experiencing achy joints and other assorted negative side effects.

The best PS supplement on the market is Corti-Stat from Champion Nutrition. They can be contacted at (800) 225-4831. You can also order Corti-Stat from the Power Store. Here are their contact numbers:

Technical Support: (815) 288-7432
Order Line: (800) 382-9611
Fax: (815) 288-7433
Email: dpower@essex1.com

Q: Once and for all, is a loading phase of creatine necessary, or is it just the manufacturer's way of moving more product?

A: Personally, I think the loading phase is crucial. There is however, some evidence that taking a small dosage for a longer time will be effective, but those studies were done on subjects whose activity levels were equivalent to that of full-time stamp collectors. It's my personal opinion, based on research studies and personal experience, that in hard-training athletes, the loading phase is of paramount importance. I recommend 0.45 g of creatine per kg of bodyweight for a 5 day period. After that, a "maintenance phase" of about 5 to 10 grams a day should suffice.