What is it about Canada and great strength coaches? For some unknown reason, the Great White North produces some of the world's best coaches and trainers, with Charles Poliquin, Christian Thibaudeau, and Charlie Francis being just a few examples. Now, another young Canadian is beginning to climb into the ranks of the elite: John Paul Catanzaro.
Catanzaro has written several articles for T-Nation in the past; now this walking encyclopedia of kinesiology is ready to answer all your questions about training and program design.
Wearing Shoulders Too Low
Q: I've been experiencing some shoulder pain lately and I've been told to stay away from overhead pressing. Is that good advice?
A: Most people "wear their shoulders too low" according to Shirley Sahrmann, a professor of physical therapy and author of the book Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. "There are more problems with shoulders depressed than elevated. Get the shoulders up for people with neck pain; if you raise the shoulder girdles up, you will get greater cervical rotation."
Sahrmann emphasizes that the body adapts to the posture it trains in. Many exercises are performed incorrectly, thus accelerating the rate of joint degeneration. For instance, it's common practice in weight training to set the scapula by retracting and depressing it during just about any upper body movement. This disrupts normal scapulo-humeral rhythm and actually leads to an impingement syndrome rather than preventing it.
Also, Sahrmann isn't a fan of all these isolated exercises for the shoulders. We're often told to avoid overhead pressing because of the impingement risk, but this is one of the most effective and safe exercises for the shoulder joint!
The key, according to Sahrmann, is to perform it in the saggital plane with elbows forward (not out to the side). The frontal and posterior head of the deltoid neutralize each other in this position while the rotator cuff muscles work very hard to stabilize the joint. I call it the Sahrmann Press.
Using a semi-supinated grip (palms facing each other) and the elbows forward, press the weight upwards just shy of locking out. Make sure to keep your forearms perpendicular/vertical to the ground at all times (i.e. the shoulders are externally rotated.)
It's common for the elbows to flare outward near the top of the movement as evident in the photo. Use dynamic (i.e. AIS) and PNF stretching techniques as I discussed in an earlier installment of this column to help correct this. Also, consider getting some ART (Active Release Technique) for your internal rotators, particularly the lats.
By the way, the exercise to avoid if you're concerned about impingement would be lateral raises as the medial deltoid depresses the joint and training the supraspinatus further decreases the subacromial space.
One more thing, if you look as sluggish as the model in the first photo, load up on Power Drive with additional ephedrine and caffeine. Ephedrine HCL is still available in Canada in 8 mg tablets!
Things Are Heating Up
Q: I'm still confused about stretching on non-workout days. Do you suggest people not stretch a cold muscle? If so, should the individual perform a few minutes of light cardio or take a warm shower before performing PNF/static stretching?
A: Performing light cardio or taking a warm shower or bath prior to stretching will facilitate the process but isn't absolutely necessary. Keep in mind the following points:
• About 10-15 seconds of contractions raises body temperature by 1ºC and a proper warm-up should raise body temp by 1-2ºC (1.4 to 2.8ºF) to cause a light sweat.
• A warm-up should improve performance, not cause fatigue or excessive sweating.
In fact, you should be able to perform at full throttle without a warm-up!
• And here's something else to consider, how specific is a stationary cycle as an upper body warm-up?
I'm currently working on an article series for T-Nation detailing effective warm-up techniques for strength training. Look for it in the future!
Success Leaves Clues
Q: If I want to stay natural, what's the key to gaining some quality size?
A: Let's take a look at the training routines of some of the past bodybuilding stars before drug use got out of hand. Each one of these champions had a strong body part. See if you can spot any similarities between the routines:
Arnold Schwarzenegger – Arm Routine
1. Cheat Barbell Curl 6 x 6
2. Seated Dumbbell Curl 6 x 6
3. Concentration Curl 6 x 10
4. Triceps Pressdowns 6 x 10
5. Barbell French Presses 6 x 8
6. Single-Arm Triceps Stretch 6 x 10
Franco Columbu – Chest Routine
1. Bench Press 7 x 6-8
2. Incline Barbell Press 4 x 6-10
3a. Flat-Bench Dumbbell Flyes 2-3 x 8-12
3b. Parallel-Bar Dips 2-3 x 10-15
Larry Scott – Shoulder Routine
1a. Standing Dumbbell Press 4-5 x 6
1b. Prone Incline Dumbbell Laterals 4-5 x 6-8
1c. Cable Bent Laterals 4-5 x 6-8
2. One-Arm Laterals 5 x 8
Sergio Oliva – Back Routine
1. Wide-Grip Chin-Ups 4-6 x 10
2. Close-Grip Chin-Ups 4-5 x 10
3a. Wide-Grip Pulldowns 4 x 6-8
3b. Close-Grip Pulldowns 4 x 6-8
4a. Wide-Grip Pulley Rows 3-4 x 6-8
4b. Close-Grip Pulley Rows 3-4 x 6-8
5a. Wide-Grip Pulldowns 3-4 x 6-8
5b. Close-Grip Pulldowns 3-4 x 6-8
6a. Deadlifts 3-4 x 6-8
6b. Good Mornings 3-4 x 6-8
Casey Viator – Forearm Routine
1. Zottman Curls 5 x 6-10
2. Barbell Wrist Curls 5 x 15-20
3. Barbell Reverse Wrist Curls 5 x 15-20
1. Barbell Reverse Curls 5 x 6-10
2. One-Arm Dumbbell Wrist Curls 5 x 15-20
3. Supported Barbell Reverse Wrist Curls 5 x 15-20
Mohamed Makkawy – Abdominal Routine
1. Lying Leg Raise 5 x 15-25
2. Hanging Leg Raise 5 x 15-25
3. Hanging Knee-Ins 5 x 15-25
4. Bent-Knee Sit-Ups 5 x 15-25
5. Twisting Sit-Ups 5 x 15-25
6. Cross-Ankle Crunch 5 x 15-25
Tom Platz – Leg Routine
1. Back Squat 2 x 25-50
2. Hack Squat 4 x 20
3. Leg Extension 4 x 20
4. Leg Curl 4 x 20
Chris Dickerson – Calf Routine
1. Seated Calf Raises 3-5 x 25-30
2. Standing Calf Raises 3-5 x 25-30
3. Donkey Calf Raises 3-5 x 25-30
Two things really stick out in my mind: volume and exercise selection. (Also, that last pic is kinda gay.) First of all, you see many of the big-bang movements including squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, dips and presses. Yes, there are some cable and machine exercises, but not that much compared to today's standards!
And talk about volume! Checkout the number of exercises and the number of sets these guys performed. Although the rep brackets may have varied somewhat, by the end of the day that's a ton of reps no matter how you look at it! Remember, I just listed one body part. They may train several a day, and each body part got hit two to three times a week.
Granted, these guys weren't saints and drugs were in use, but they knew a thing or two back then. Lots of hard work is the key to success!
Lacking Equipment But Not Motivation!
Q: I train at home and don't have access to a seated curl, calf raise machine, or any other leg machine. What can I use to substitute for those exercises?
A: Use a heels-elevated dumbbell squat, a barbell hack squat, or even a Swiss ball squat (feet flat) and couple it with a Romanian semi-stiff legged deadlift. It's very important that you keep your trunk as vertical as possible during the squat. This will torch your quads but that's exactly what you want since your back will be on fire from the RDL's. Here's a quick lesson on those exercises:
Barbell Hack Squat – To maintain more of an upright posture and really hit the quads, raise the heels. Use a piece of wood (2 x 4), two plates, or a rocker/wedge board as depicted in the photo.
Swiss Ball Squat – Position the ball between the small of your back and a wall, then shoot the knees directly forward over your middle toes. Hold dumbbells to add weight.
Standing Calf Raise – For this exercise, go to a one-legged version using either a step or stairs. Hold onto a dumbbell on the side of the working leg and use the other hand for support.
It's also easy to rig a homemade, seated calf raise machine by simply sitting at the edge of a bench and supporting either a barbell, dumbbells, or plates on your lap while you raise your heels. To improve the ROM (range of motion), place a step or plates under your forefoot and make sure to pivot off the balls of your feet.
Tri-Sets For Serious Size
Q: I'm looking for a new program to put on some size. Got anything good? And once and for all, how often should I train for mass?
A: Here's a great hypertrophy routine. It involves tri-sets which are basically three exercises performed one after the other with very little rest in between (just enough time to get to the next piece of equipment.) Follow the program as outlined and it'll take you exactly one hour to complete (not including your warm-ups, of course.)
Lats, Pecs & Abs
A1) Sternum Chin-Ups 4 x 4-6 @ 5010, 10 secs.
A2) Semi-Stiff Arm Pulldowns 4 x 6-8 @ 4010, 10 secs.
A3) Seated Cable Row 4 x 8-10 @ 3010, 150 secs.
[Note: If you don't speak strength coach, "4 x 4-6 @ 5010, 10 secs" means that you're going to perform four sets of four to six reps using this tempo: five seconds lowering (eccentric portion), no pause, one second lifting (concentric portion), no pause, repeat. Rest ten seconds or however long it takes you to move to the next exercise in the tri-set.]
A1) Incline Dumbbell Press (semi-supinated) 4 x 4-6 @ 5010, 10 secs.
A2) Flat Cable Flyes 4 x 6-8 @ 4010, 10 secs.
A3) Wide-Grip Bench Press to Neck 4 x 8-10 @ 3010, 150 secs.
A1) Incline Two-Legged Lowering 3 x 8-10 @ 3010, 10 secs.
A2) Decline Twisting Sit-Up 3 x 10-12 @ 2010, 10 secs.
A3) Decline Ab Crunch 3 x 12-15 @ 1010, 120 secs.
Note: Sternum chin-ups and wide-grip neck presses were two favorites of iron guru Vince Gironda, and for good reason. During the chin-ups, bring the lower sternum to the bar. Make sure you lean back as you pull.
For the neck press, lie on the bench with feet crossed and knees as close to your chest as possible to flatten your back. Pull your elbows back to really stretch out those pecs – you'll have to go a lot lighter than normal on this one.
Perform the abdominal work on a decline bench or slant board. For the incline two-legged lowering, lay supine on a decline bench or slant board with your head positioned higher than your legs and grab on to the leg support. To increase the load on this exercise, simply place a medicine ball or dumbbell between your feet or use ankle weights.
Hams, Quads & Calves
A1) Romanian Deadlift 4 x 4-6 @ 5010, 10 secs.
A2) Lying Leg Curl 4 x 6-8 @ 4010, 10 secs.
A3) Back Extension 4 x 8-10 @ 3010, 150 secs.
A1) Front Squat 4 x 4-6 @ 5010, 10 secs.
A2) Seated Leg Extension 4 x 10-12 @ 2010, 10 secs.
A3) Barbell Hack Squat (Heels Elevated) 4 x 8-10 @ 3010, 150 secs.
A1) Standing Calf Raise 3 x 8-10 @ 3010, 10 secs.
A2) Seated Calf Raise 3 x 12-15 @ 2010, 10 secs.
A3) Donkey Calf Raise 3 x 15-20 @ 1010, 120 secs.
Note: Although the sequence may not seem ideal, I've found through trial and error that it's better to perform ham work before quads in this routine. This will provide some priority to these body parts which tend to get preceded by squats in most programs. Furthermore, try to get through just one set of RDL's after that quad-emphasis tri-set. Good luck!
Triceps, Biceps & Delts
A1) Close-Grip Bench Press 4 x 4-6 @ 5010, 10 secs.
A2) Decline Dumbbell Triceps Extension 4 x 6-8 @ 4010, 10 secs.
A3) Standing Supinated Pressdown 4 x 8-10 @ 3010, 150 secs.
A1) Seated Preacher EZ-Bar Reverse Curls 4 x 4-6 @ 5010, 10 secs.
A2) Mid-Incline Hammer Curls 4 x 6-8 @ 4010, 10 secs.
A3) Standing Barbell Curls 4 x 8-10 @ 3010, 150 secs.
A1) Mid-Grip EZ-Bar Upright Row 3 x 8-10 @ 3010, 10 secs.
A2) Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 x 10-12 @ 2010, 10 secs.
A3) Seated Arnold Press 3 x 8-10 @ 3010, 120 secs.
Note: For the Arnold press, start with the dumbbells positioned directly in front of the shoulders in a supinated (palms facing you) grip. Press the weights upward in an arcing/circular motion and rotate your arms internally so that your palms are pronated or facing forward at the top position.
Expect to drop the load each set to maintain the rep bracket. As far as frequency is concerned, pick which scenario describes you best:
The 3 In 5 Approach
Use this approach if you're in your late teens or early twenties, still going to school, get plenty of sleep, get plenty of sex, eat right for the most part, and live in your parents' home:
Day 1 – Lats, Pecs & Abs
Day 2 – Hams, Quads & Calves
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Triceps, Biceps & Delts
Day 5 – Off
The 3 In 6 Approach
Use this approach if you're in your thirties, have a family, work full-time, try to get eight hours of sleep but it's more like six on most nights, skip breakfast every once and awhile but try for four meals a day, and get sex once a week if you're really lucky, but ya' gotta pull tooth and nail for it:
Day 1 – Lats, Pecs & Abs
Day 2 – Off
Day 3 – Hams, Quads & Calves
Day 4 – Off
Day 5 – Triceps, Biceps & Delts
Day 6 – Off
The 3 In 7 Approach
Use this approach if you're in your mid-forties and beyond, you run your own business, you're lucky to make it home for dinner most nights, you live off two or three meals a day with plenty of coffee to keep you going, you can barely afford three hours a week to train, your son wants a car even though his grades suck, your daughter is planning to wed a guy she met last week, your wife couldn't be any bitchier if she tried, and sex is only something you see on cable:
Day 1 – Lats, Pecs & Abs
Day 2 – Off
Day 3 – Hams, Quads & Calves
Day 4 – Off
Day 5 – Triceps, Biceps & Delts
Day 6 – Off
Day 7 – Off
Whether you consider it overtraining or under-recovery, it's clear that nutrition and sleep will affect training frequency. However, another variable that's often overlooked is stress. Let's face it, we all have stress in our lives. How much and how we deal with it will influence our progress in the gym.
The rule still stands, though: "Go heavier or go home!" You must increase the load by 1-2% or do an additional one or two reps with the same load as before in order to make progress. You'll know by your first set whether you're good to go or if you need another day of rest.
20 Pounds of Muscle in Four Weeks?
Q: I just joined a gym today and went through the mandatory assessment. It just confirmed what I already knew: I'm pathetically weak and lacking lean body mass! This trainer at the gym swears I can put some size on quickly if I follow his system. In just a month (or twelve sessions with him), he said I'd gain 20 pounds of muscle, almost five pounds a week. What do you think?
A: Get a new trainer! This guy is either a scumbag or an idiot! Weight loss is pretty easy; gaining weight, on the other hand, can be more of a challenge.
Earlier this year, I had a guy come in weighing 155 pounds soaking wet with aspirations of massive proportions. He was 26 years old and never weight trained before, yet he wanted to gain as much muscle mass as possible in four weeks. I told him flat out that it was impossible, and that if anyone told him otherwise, they were either lying or they had no clue!
Research shows that neural, not structural, adaptations occur during the first four to six weeks of weight training for newbies. You can gain muscle strength in your first month of training, but not size. In other words, the muscle will get stronger, but the cross-sectional area won't change.
Strength changes occur in the following pattern:
A) Increase in intermuscular coordination: first 2-3 weeks of training
B) Increase in intramuscular coordination: continues for the following 4-6 weeks
C) Increase in hypertrophy (size): during next 6-12 weeks
(Source: Siff,& Verkhoshansky, 1999, pg. 93)
Keep that in mind if a trainer ever offers you the world in four weeks!