Q: My triceps development has stalled, big time. Got any new routines I can try?

A: This one could also be called "the pre/post exhaustion training routine from hell". I was first exposed to the concept of "doublés" by former Canadian National Weightlifting Coach Pierre Roy, who produced a host of weightlifting champions including Olympic silver medalist Jacques Demers. Doublé is a French word which means to do it twice. Pierre originated the concept by having his athletes do the same lift twice in a workout if he wanted rapid improvement in that particular lift. For example, if one of his Olympic lifters needed more leg strength, he would have him squat at the beginning of the workout and the end of it.

I received added incentive to incorporate this principle in my training when I came across a strength training book by French strength physiologist Commetti, where he extolled the virtues of doublés. My curiosity was piqued, so I began to prescribe doubles to many of my athletes, most of whom reported unbelievable muscle soreness and subsequent growth. Although you can apply this type of training to any body part, try the following routine for your triceps:

1) Lying EZ Bar Triceps Extensions to forehead 6-8 RM (repetitions maximum, i.e. using the greatest amount of weight possible to allow you to do 6-8 reps) on a 3-1-1 tempo.

Without resting, move to:

2) Close Grip Bench Presses 4-6 RM on a 3-1-1 tempo.

Without resting, move to:

3) Lying EZ Bar Triceps Extensions to forehead 4-6 RM on a 311 tempo.

Rest for 2 minutes. Repeat steps 1 to 3 twice (you'll probably have to drop the weight 5-10 lbs. every new Doublé Tri- Set).

You can follow this up with a couple of other triceps movements, but let Doublé be the cornerstone of your workout for a brief period (until your body adapts to it).

Q: I have purchased The Poliquin Principals and it listed a few muscle groups that are predominantly fast or slow twitch muscles. I would like to see a more comprehensive list or chart of the average muscle fiber composition. Do you know where I can get this info?

A: I know of only one author who's published information on this topic and he's the Finnish researcher, Vittaasalo. The name of his book is Voima Harjotelu (Strength Training). Unfortunately, it's in Finnish! Maybe one of our Finnish readers can kindly forward a translated copy to us.

Keep in mind, though, that:

1) For most individuals, most muscles lean toward a particular muscle-fiber type. For example, hamstrings and gastrocnemius usually have a greater proportion of fast-twitch fibers and conversely, the soleus and adductors have a greater proportion of slow-twitch fibers. Incidently, I've only found one individual out of 60 with slow-twitch hamstrings. (Editor's note: Typically, fast-twitch fibers require heavy, low-rep training, while slow-twitch muscle fibers respond best to higher reps).

2) However, in some individuals, there's a wide variance between muscle fibers, even in the same individual. For instance, one can find individuals with fast-twitch biceps and slow-twitch triceps and vice versa. In my experience, the deltoids are probably the muscle group with the greatest variance of fiber make-up.

3) Doing an inordinate amount of aerobic work can make fast-twitch fibers behave like slow-twitch fibers. Consequently, a high aerobic capacity often goes hand-in-hand with poor, overall strength.

4) Within the same muscle, there are some variances. For example, the upper fibers of the latissimus dorsi are slow-twitch while the lower ones are more fast-twitch. The fast-twitch make-up will vary whether you insert the biopsy needle near the origin or the insertion of the biceps brachii. Muscles like these require a great deal of work in all rep-ranges.

As far as getting more info on fiber make-up, try accessing the PubMed website where you can access a large number of studies on that topic.

Q: What would be the major, if any, differences between a bodybuilding program for a natural bodybuilder and a drug assisted lifter?

A: In general, there are two main differences between the bodybuilding program of a natural bodybuilder and that of a drug-assisted lifter:

  • I don't believe that anabolics necessarily allow one to train more often than a natural trainee, but they definitely can accelerate the rate of progress. In other words, a steroid assisted trainee may gain 5% each workout instead of 1-2%. I am in agreement with those who say you may, in fact, need to train less frequently while on steroids. That's probably because you're getting stronger faster and each workout makes greater inroads into your recovery ability.
  • As Mauro DiPasquale has said, the body is very forgiving while being on anabolics. The natural trainee must pay more attention to frequent feedings and quantity and quality of sleep than the drug-assisted lifter who can stay up late and party with little or no negative effect. In other words, the drug-assisted bodybuilder can train terribly, eat terribly, and sleep terribly, and in short, do a whole lot of things wrong and still put on some muscle. (Makes you want to kill him, doesn't it?)

However, don't feel you're at too much of a disadvantage when training naturally. I've often seen people who train smarter surpass drug-assisted lifters in gains, particularly when you look at their progress over the long-run.

Q: What's the best way to build traps? I notice that powerlifters and Olympic lifters seem to have the best traps, bar none. By comparison, bodybuilders' traps are nothing. Shrugs and upright rows don't seem to do a whole lot for me, and I seriously doubt powerlifters do any shrugs...what's their secret? Is it deadlifts? And, if so, are there any little tricks to put more load on the traps, like retracting the scapulae? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

A: Powerlifters get their trap development from years of deadlifting while Olympic lifters get them simply from the Olympic lifts and their derivatives. The power cleans and power snatches are probably the most effective exercises to develop the traps after shrugs. Doing five sets of six reps on one these lifts will pack meat on your traps.

If you're going to do shrugs, I suggest you use dumbbells and work only one side at a time. This way, you'll have way more range than with a bar.

As far as machines are concerned, the Hammer ground pull is probably the best on the market, since it allows one to work the traps unilaterally. It also offers the advantage of having two points on the lever where you can overload the strength curve, permitting you to better match the resistance curve with your strength curve.

Retracting the scapulae at the top of the motion when doing shrugs is certainly not a good trick. In fact, it's somewhat dorkish. Just think about this for a moment. How does gravity exert its pull when you try to move parallel with it, instead of against it?

Q: How much does creatine increase maximal strength? What's the latest scoop?

A: Two papers presented this week at the National Strength and Conditioning Conference in Nashville suggest that a high dosage of creatine does not increase maximal strength (Walters and Olrich; Stevenson and Dudley) when measured with a one RM test.

However, the study by Stevenson and Dudley demonstrates that seven days of creatine daily supplementation (20 grams per day) can increase the number of repetitions in a fatigue test. This suggests that creatine supplementation may allow one to increase training volume, and thus, in the long run, accrue more lean mass.

As far as repeated efforts are concerned, the study of Thorensen et al. showed that creatine supplementation for six days at 20 grams a day does not improve repeated 40-yard sprint performance.

Clearly, creatine adds weight very quickly and it also seems to increase training volume. And even though the study cited above didn't show an increase in maximal strength, I'm not entirely convinced that it doesn't increase 1 RM. Regardless, creatine is a fascinating compound and more research is needed.