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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
As a gross generalization, I prefer the load to be at least 60%
of your 1RM in order to recruit all your muscle
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
T: Interesting. So, over the years you've been involved in
the total body vs. split debate. Has your position changed at
CW: No and yes. How's that for a duplicitous
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
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
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
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
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
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
Number three is Gene Simmon's Family Jewels on
A&E. It's one of the few shows that lives up to its
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
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!