It's time to play catch-up with the Testosterone authors. Nate Green does the asking, Chad Waterbury does the talking.
Chad Waterbury is somewhat of a legend here. Kind of like the long-haired rock-star of the strength and conditioning community. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone on Testosterone who hasn't performed one of his revolutionary training programs, and if cutting-edge training theories get you all excited, the odds are good that it was one of Chad's theories that sparked your curiosity.
So what does a rock-star do when he's not busy writing books, training clients, and revolutionizing the industry?
Testosterone: You've got a lot going on in your business. Fill us in on the latest.
Chad Waterbury: Well, first off, I'm writing a new book for Rodale that should be available in the fall of 2008. It's a book on training for size and strength that has a great carryover to the real world. The new training philosophy that I've been hinting at for the last 6 months is the focus.
Second, I was recently awarded the position as the director of strength and conditioning for Rickson Gracie's International Jiu-Jitsu facility in Los Angeles. I've always been a huge fan of Rickson, and his school in Los Angeles is definitely one of the most revered jiu-jitsu facilities in the world. They've never had a true strength and conditioning program, so I feel honored they asked me to design it.
And I just finished an e-book. Over the years I've been inundated with requests to design a complete program with various end-results. The most requested result is to lose 10 pounds of fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle. So I decided to write a program that will do it. The program is called The 10/10 Transformation.
The e-book consists of a complete training and nutritional program. It's not the same old stuff you read in every other book. The training program alternates between intense fat loss training and high frequency training. The nutritional portion is also easy to follow since you don't need to count calories.
Follow the plan as laid-out and you will get the results. Losing 10 pounds of fat and adding 10 pounds of muscle doesn't sound like much, but if you do it, you'll dramatically transform your physique. Take, for example, a typical 175-pound male with 16% body fat. At the end of the program he'll have single-digit body fat at the same weight.
I decided to write an e-book for a few reasons. First, I wanted to give the readers something to hold them over until my Rodale book comes out. Second, I know many people live in areas that make delivery very expensive. So I took the delivery cost out of the equation. Third, I wanted to make a very affordable product that anyone can benefit from. That's why the book is only $19.95. You can pick up a copy here.
T: What training method do you feel is being most neglected?
CW: Definitely circuits. For whatever reason, most people equate circuits with crappy versions of fat loss training. You know, high reps, low loads, and short rest periods. But a total body circuit can be easily manipulated for strength, size, or metabolic training.
I'll use the chin, dip, and deadlift circuit as an example.
In terms of maximum muscle recruitment, you're always at odds with time because you need as much time of it as possible before repeating a movement in order to offset fatigue. However, you don't need to rest passively. You can work on other areas of your body before you return to an exercise. This will make the training sessions more time efficient.
No, not this type of circuit training...
Three minutes of rest is a good starting point before repeating a movement. If you rest one minute between each movement you've got your three minutes of rest between each exercise. But if you performed the chin, dip, and deadlift workout with three minutes rest between straight sets, the workout would take longer than it needs to take and you wouldn't boost your work capacity.
Many people think you can't do a total body workout if you perform eight or 10 sets per movement. You certainly can. If you perform eight circuits of the chin, dip, and deadlift with one-minute rest between each movement, the entire session will take you 30 minutes.
For strength, you could do three circuits with 90 seconds rest between each movement. This allows you to keep the load very high since the rest periods are sufficient and the volume is low. Each movement is three reps.
For size, you need more volume. Eight to ten circuits with 3-5 reps is a great method. The rest periods should be 60-70 seconds between each movement.
And, of course, circuits are excellent for metabolic conditioning. I think most people perform too many reps, though. I typically keep the reps less than 8 per movement with 5-6 circuits. The rest periods start at 45 seconds and decrease by 5 seconds with each new workout.
I know that many people can't perform circuits because they can't take up three areas of the gym at once. But if it's not a problem, circuits are the way to go.
Chad mentally pummeling a heavy bag.
T: You've been doing a lot of talking about maximum muscle fiber recruitment. Tell us why it's so important.
CW: If your goal is to get bigger and stronger, the key to getting results is to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible with each repetition. If you do that you'll get bigger and stronger faster so you won't need to perform as many total reps in a workout.
The size principle tells us that there's a fixed, orderly recruitment of muscle fibers. The smallest are recruited first, the largest, most powerful muscle fibers that have the most potential for growth are recruited last. What most people don't understand is this: when you're recruiting the largest muscle fibers you're also recruiting all of the other muscle fibers. So the key is to recruit those largest muscle fibers as quickly as possible.
The first, and simplest, way to do this is to lift all loads as fast as possible. This will augment the electrical signal from your brain to your muscles. The faster you try to lift a load, the stronger the signal. The stronger the signal, the more muscle fibers your body will recruit. But lifting with maximum speed only holds true for the concentric phase.
If you drop the load as fast as possible during the eccentric phase, you'll lose muscle tension. Obviously, that's not good. You must control the eccentric phase but you shouldn't try to slow it down. Of course, controlling the eccentric phase means there will be some slowing, but it shouldn't be noticeable. A one second eccentric is a good starting point. I think the eccentric phase has been grossly overrated.
I've experimented extensively with eccentric-focused training over the years. One technique I used was with a 10-second eccentric. A woman came to me and wanted to improve here pull-ups but she couldn't even do one. So I had her perform five eccentric contractions for a count of 10. The results were fair.
So it got me thinking: what if I had her start from a hang position and pull as hard as possible for 10 seconds? Essentially, she was performing an isometric contraction for the last 8 seconds. The results were far superior to what she achieved with the eccentric only contractions. Over the years, this approach has always produced better results.
I'm not a big fan of isometrics, either, but if the choice is a slow eccentric or a quasi-isometric contraction, I'll go for the latter.
I won't discredit eccentric-focused training entirely because there are circumstances when it can be beneficial. But for 90% of the readers, such techniques aren't necessary.
The second key is to use a load that's heavy enough to recruit all your muscle fibers. Curling a soup can isn't going to recruit all of your muscle fibers, no matter how fast you lift it. The reason is because your brain senses the load you're holding. If the load is light, your brain knows it doesn't need to devote many muscle fibers to the task.
Now imagine you curl the soup can as fast as possible. The brain will sense the speed and say, "Damn, we have to recruit more muscle fibers because he's trying to rip that thing apart." Problem is, you've finished the curl before your brain has time to recruit all of the additional muscle fibers. In other words, the load needed to be heavier.
Sorry, Mr. Warhol, not heavy enough.
When the load is heavier, two things happen. First, your brain senses the heavier load in your hand so it's ready to immediately devote more muscle fibers to the task. Second, the absolute time it takes to curl a heavier load is longer so the nervous system can recruit additional muscle fibers before the contraction ends.
As a gross generalization, I prefer the load to be at least 60% of your 1RM in order to recruit all your muscle fibers.
Also, I want to mention one more thing about recruiting all of your muscle fibers. When I make such a statement I'm referring to your recruitable muscle fibers. You can only recruit your entire muscle fiber pool if you're in a life-or-death situation.
T: Interesting. So, over the years you've been involved in the total body vs. split debate. Has your position changed at all?
CW: No and yes. How's that for a duplicitous answer?
Let me first give my definition of total body training. It's a workout that consists of at least one of the following compound movements in each training session: an upper body pulling, an upper body pushing, and a squat or deadlift variation. The chin, dip, and deadlift is a perfect example of a total body workout.
My position hasn't changed much because I always look at the question from the angle of the person asking. Can they only make it to the gym two or three times per week? If so, the answer is simple: total body is the way to go because a split won't result in a high enough frequency.
For someone who has the luxury of training whenever he wants, upper/lower body splits can be an effective tool. And sometimes an upper/lower split is ideal for beginners because many of them have a poor work capacity and they're unable to recruit sufficient muscle fibers. So they need to devote more time to a specific movement. However, I wouldn't break it down any further than an upper/lower split.
What has changed is this: the more I hear the arguments in favor of splits, the stronger I feel that total body workouts are the way to go. You can't go wrong with three total body workouts each week. You can go wrong with splits. I'm not a big gambler so I go with the better odds.
T: There have been some conflicting viewpoints recently regarding foam rolling, mobility work, and warm-ups. Some have said that since we're not professional athletes, we're spending way too much time on it. Others say we're not doing enough. When is it too much? When is it not enough?
CW: It's too much when it's taking away from your primary goal. It's not enough when you're still restricted by that joint.
The answer should always come back to this question: What's your primary goal? If you need to lose 40 pounds of fat, and if you only have 3 hours of available time each week, it's probably not best to skip your weight training and energy systems work in favor of stretching your hamstrings.
Mobility and flexibility work are great. But if an athlete hires me to strip off 20 pounds of fat in 10 weeks for a fight, how satisfied will he be if my program only burns off 10 pounds because I devoted too much time to increasing his shoulder mobility? Time restrictions are always a factor. That's why you need to prioritize your goals.
The second question should be, are you restricted by a certain joint? If so, it needs to be addressed. But there's no need to foam roll your hamstrings after every workout if they have plenty of mobility or if they're not causing a limitation.
However, some mobility and flexibility work should be part of any effective program. The key is to identify what areas need attention. There are many qualified people around the country that can take you through a physical assessment in order to give you the critical information you need. All of my clients go through a thorough assessment, from head to toe, before our first training session. That way, I can coincide their training program to address their limitations.
From a training perspective it's always good to include movements that increase strength and mobility simultaneously. That's effective time management. For example, the overhead squat is a cornerstone in my sessions for athletes and non-athletes because it enhances mobility in the shoulder, thoracic spine, hips, and ankles. Those four areas are typically restricted in people so I use the overhead squat to address it, especially when time is a limiting factor.
I just finished shooting a DVD that gives assessments and solutions for many different joints. For example, I have people perform two tests to assess their knee health. If they pass both tests, they don't need to focus on mobility or flexibility work for that area. If they fail either, I give them the program to follow. When it's released, I'll be sure to let the Testosterone readers know.
T: What five things are currently saving your life or rocking your world?
CW: Numero uno is definitely Curb Your Enthusiasm. Were I an omnipotent ruler, there would be a channel that showed it 24/7. I don't know how I functioned without it. But I must mention that if I were the omnipotent ruler, chewing gum, speed bumps, and musical cell phone rings would be outlawed. In other words, Curb isn't for everyone, it's just my zealous passion.
Number two is the Japanese wagyu steak at Wolfgang Puck's Cut in Los Angeles. That place is heaven for any carnivore. I wish I could eat there every night. But in order to do so, your last name better be Rockefeller or Gates. Damn, it's expensive!
Number three is Gene Simmon's Family Jewels on A&E. It's one of the few shows that lives up to its reputation.
Gene Simmons and Family.
Fourth is Biotest's new Surge that's designed to be consumed during a workout. I'll tell ya, that new Surge is a powerful performance booster. I train a K-1 fighter and I made him take the stuff all the way to Japan for his competition.
[Editor's note: The new addition to the Surge line that's meant to be ingested during a workout hasn't been released yet. Only a select few people — Chad being one of them — have used it for any length of time.]
The last would be the bottled pure green tea from ITO EN. I can't get enough of it. I drink it every day. It's loaded with antioxidants and it tastes incredible.
T: I've got to pick up some of that green tea and that new Surge. Thanks for the interview, Chad!