Q: I'm going to be opening a gym and I would like your advice on the equipment that should be purchased. Is there a line of machine equipment that is better than another? Any information in general you can get me would be greatly appreciated.

A: I first have to ask who you're trying to cater to. Hardcore lifters have different needs and different wants than the general fitness market.

Secondly, I have yet to find a company that fills all my needs. I tend to buy from a variety of sources.

For benches, racks, pulley, and some selectorized machines, my favorite company is Atlantis (514) 629-3000. They use very high quality materials and craftsmanship. Since it is a Canadian company, you might save up to 50% right now as the Canadian dollar is currently very weak.

For variable resistance equipment, I buy Strive (800) 368-6448. We recently purchased 4 pieces of their equipment for the Testosterone training facility and plan on purchasing more.

And, in my new house, I will also have selected pieces from Flex, Hammer, Magnum and Cybex.

For dumbbells, your best bet is Advanced Freeweight Systems (800) 872-8811. For Olympic bumper plates and bars, I strongly recommend Eleiko (734) 425-2862.

If you are more avant-garde and want to be on the cutting edge, I recommend you invest in Negator, the best free weight eccentric training system I have ever seen. Call 888-MYONICS for more information.

Q: Charles, I've read your book and I think it's fantastic. Right now I work out each body part once every five days: day 1 = legs, day 2 = chest & back, day 3 = off, day 4 = shoulders and arms, day 5 = off and day 6 = start over. I do cardio training on the off days along with training abs, calves, forearms and external shoulder rotators. I want to try the arm routine in your book, but I'm not sure how to fit in 3 arm workouts a week? Also, what's the best day to do deadlifts on? Right now I do them on leg day.

A: Regarding your first question, the answer is very easy. Unfortunately, it seems there was a mistake in the book. The arm routine should be done once every 5 days, not 3 days a week. I have no clue how this mistake got in there, but I suspect some 6-workout-a-week, 20-set-per-bodypart Weider saboteurs were at work. I will therefore commit a written version of Hari-Kari by falling on my pencil.

Oh well, that's one way the second edition will come in handy. The next edition will have new pictures ones that were taken this century and some of the errors in the first book will be eradicated. I'll also include a chapter on supplementation that I promise will be unbiased. This second edition of the Poliquin Principles should be available by early fall.

As far as your second question, you're absolutely right, deadlifts should be done on leg day too.

Q: So here's the situation: I am an kickboxer and freestyle fighter (you know, like the UFC but with rules), and have to maintain a certain weight. I am currently fighting as a light middleweight which ranges anywhere from 147 to 155 pounds, depending on the organization/promoter. I really like this division because I am not disadvantaged by the height and reach of fighters in higher weight classes. So the question I really want answered is how to improve strength WITHOUT putting on mass. Every time I begin a weight training regimen, I always manage to put on a few pounds within a week. Realize that I am 150 pounds and carry only 6% body fat. Any suggestions? Also, I really don't like cutting weight too close to a fight because I lose endurance.

A: Increasing strength without increasing lean body mass is best accomplished using 1-5 RM loads for multiple sets and taking long rest intervals along the lines of 3-5 minutes. This will ensure that hypertrophy will only take place in the higher threshold motor units which are the ones responsible for power output.

One thing you failed to mention, though, is your height. It may be to your advantage to gain a few pounds of muscle mass and move up a weight class. I know this is against the instincts of all athletes who compete in weight classes. Why would you want to move up a class? Well, some studies show that an increase in muscle cross-section of only 17% can result in strength increase of 85%. The only drawback is a possible loss in endurance, but your cardiopulmonary system should adapt in no time.

Q: It seems clear to me that there is a correlation between an increase in body weight (whether fat or muscle) and maximal strength. I'm drawing this conclusion from the powerlifting formulae and the huge difference in world records for various weight classes. I'm 200 pounds at about 12% body fat and I FINALLY benched 315 pounds. All other factors excluded, what, if any consequences can I expect if I drop to 7% body fat or a weight of around 188? Please keep in mind that I'd rather jump off a bridge than not be able to bench 3 plates again.

A: As far as the correlation between body weight and maximal strength, I doubt very much that an increase in fat will increase your strength unless, through some sort of strange genetic mutation, your fat now has contractile properties.

Conversely, it is possible to drop to 7% body fat and still bench at least the same weight, as long as you do it through dietary manipulations and not by increase aerobic workloads. There are plenty of combat sport athletes who do just that on a regular basis.