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Getting on the Parrillo train – Isolative ab exercises – Puberty is perfect – Upper and lower lats – MCTs are more than a bodybuilding supplement

By Iron Vic Steele

Good morning,

I am not a bodybuilder but train like one and (mostly) eat like one. I am a Parrillo Product user and a big fan of all his supplements. I recently got a copy of his classic book, High Performance Bodybuilding. I was really taken by the idea that, when adopting the Parrillo approach, the first thing to do is to not lose fat – but rather gain weight! I found that interesting and wondered if that was still the desired path for someone wanting to use Parrillo methods and supplements. I would imagine most folks pick up a book like this looking to get lean and lose fat – and here is Parrillo telling them to gain weight. 

Zeke, Zebulon


John Parrillo has long range vision: the smartest thing, the most important thing for a person new to Parrillo to do is get their nutrition in line and their metabolism “squared away.” Real bodybuilding nutrition is designed to aide in the acquisition of new muscle and the melting of body fat. The reason John always suggest the athlete new to the Parrillo approach start with a “mass building” phase is that folks invariably come to us with shattered or malfunctioning metabolisms. The surest way to successfully underpin the intense training, the hardcore weight training and mitochondria-building cardio, is to consume “clean” food eaten in ample quantities. The first order of business is to clean up the food selections. The daily allotment of clean calories is eaten in 5-6 mini-meals, as opposed to three square meals. Parrillo always recommends a high protein intake: muscle is protein and there is nothing better for fueling muscle growth than ample protein. Parrillo recommends a gram or more of protein per day per pound of bodyweight. Supplements are designed to help hit clean calorie and lean protein daily targets. Fasted cardio is recommended. Cardio is critical for keeping weight grain lean and not marbled with an unacceptable amount of body fat. After a successful 10-12-week mass-building phase, the bodybuilder has a much higher caloric ceiling, making it far easier to “get underneath” during the subsequent lean-out phase. Never be afraid to add lean muscle. Settle in for 6-10 weeks and reap the muscular strength and power benefits. It is easy to shift into a Parrillo lean-out phase coming off a Parrillo mass-building phase, you understand what is expected and all the moving parts of the process are in place and practiced.


I know you are not a big fan of massive amounts of abdominal exercise, but won’t additional ab work etch in greater waistline detail? I do a lot of ab exercises that isolate one section of the ab region: the upper abs, the lower abs, the individual external obliques, the serratus and the intercostals – won’t more ab work improve and enhance the abs?

Zabo, Muscle Beach


This assumes your etched-in detail is visible and not buried underneath a blanket of body fat. We all have incredible ab detail. Everyone of us. The trick is getting the bodyfat percentile low enough so see the detail. Ab exercise builds and strengthens the muscles of the ab region. Other exercises also strengthen build and strengthen the abs: heavy squats, deadlifts, rows, power cleans, any type of overhead press – all these exercises cause to abs to contract and contract hard! The abs are strengthened far more by staying upright during a limit set of five reps in the deadlift with 405 than they (the abs) are stimulated or strengthened performing yet another set of crunches. Yes, we need some direct ab work. However, if you perform the lifts I mention, your abs are strong as hell and muscled-up from supporting big poundage. Melt away the body fat that obscures those abs and you will blow your own mind with how much etched in detail you have. Pros routinely get down to 5% in order to acquire the depth and degree of etched-in detail you reference. 

Mr. Steele,

My 14-year old son is going through puberty and undergoing a growth spurt. He buys muscle magazines and wants me to buy him a set of weights and a bench. Is he old enough?  What would you have him do? I used to lift a bit in high school, so I am familiar with the basic lifts. I would and could spot him. He has shot up from 5-5 to 6-2 in a year and a half and looks and feels skinny, awkward and weak. He has the Arnold Predator poster in his bedroom. He has the desire. I see it as a way for us to spend time together.

Boz, Tell City

Here’s an idea: why don’t you throw in and train with him? Why just stand there and watch when you two can be getting into shape together. Pull him along: you will be bigger and stronger and can serve as his role model for the techniques and intensity. I would teach a young beginner the front squat and no back squatting till they learn the master the more difficult front squat. Add to that the flat bench press, power clean, the standing overhead press with barbell or dumbbells. Rowing is good, chins, pullups, pulldowns – and always let a boy end the workout with arms, boys love to pump up their arms so let them – but only after they have done the “real exercises, the big growth exercises. Proper technique is a must: consult YouTube for technical explanations and demonstrations. Puberty is the ideal time for a young man to commence serious progressive resistance training. The young boy body is no different than young girls. Prepubescent boys suddenly began manufacturing testosterone; if they are training, strength and muscle gains occur at an astounding rate. The right exercises need be done correctly and consistently. Make sure to feed him lots and watch as he exponentially expands and muscles up before your very eyes. 


I hear a lot of talk about upper and lower lats. Parrillo was /differentiating between upper and lower long before Dorian Yates bought widespread attention to the idea of differing exercises for the lower lats. Before, lats had been thought of as one muscle and therefore had a different exercise prescription. Now lats are viewed as two separate muscles with two different functions and therefore two different exercise prescriptions. How do you hit the lower lats best??

Jean, Toronto


As you point out, John Parrillo was differentiating between the upper and lower lats before anyone had ever heard of Dorian Yates. Parrillo pointed out that underhand rows isolated and worked the lats, if the “perfect” angle was found. John has long noted that with barbell rowing, so much depends on the angle of the torso in relation to the floor. Parrillo stressed on all barbell rowing that the bar should be pulled with the back muscles and not with the biceps. Too many rowers make the mistake of “arm pulling” their rows. This turns a great back exercise into a terrible arm exercise. The upper lats are better isolated using a wide, overhand grip. Pull to the pecs and try to hold it they’re before lowering. For isolating the lower lats, use a narrow under-hand grip and pull to the belly using a steeper angle. Parrillo Dips are an exercise John invented that stresses the pecs and lower lats: assume the dip starting position. Rather than break the elbows and begin the dip, stay locked out and push the body upward as far as possible. The range-of-motion will be minimum. After rising as far as possible, slump downward as far as possible. Reengage and push back upward. This is one rep. The elbows never unlock. 5-rep sets are murder! These are two good lower lat isolation exercises.

Mr. Victor!

There is a lot of good press lately on MCTs. There are more and more health advantages being assigned to the daily ingestion of medium-chain triglycerides. This is not for any bodybuilding purposes, but for mental health and mental clarity and as a potential dementia benefit. You guys at Parrillo were championing MCTs before anybody had ever heard about them. What’s the latest with CapTri?

Deb C., Granite City


John was first attracted to MCTs back in the 1980s. He was researching benign, beneficial dietary fats. The more he read, the more convinced he became of the tremendous variety of benefits associated with MCT supplementation. John became intrigued when he became aware that MCTs are preferentially oxidized. When MCTs are consumed, they ‘jump ahead’ of whatever food is in the body waiting to be oxidized. MCTs get burned first. Parrillo created CapTri® C8 MCT as an MCT supplement. When a food is completely burned, carbon dioxide and water are produced. The faster a food burns, the higher its “thermic effect.” MCTs taken consistently throughout the day contribute a “thermogenic effect” that jolts the metabolism, a good thing. Bodybuilders use CapTri® C8 MCT to provide a clean source of supplemental calories for adding mass; bodybuilders will also use CapTri® C8 MCT when leaning out; one competitive trick-of-the-trade is to “switch out” starch calories with CapTri® C8 MCT calories during the final two weeks of a lean-out phase. The newly discovered mental health benefits of MCTs make it even more sensible to take supplemental MCTs. 


I have a limited amount of equipment. I have a good selection of barbells and dumbbells, squat racks, etc., I was wondering about muscle targeting and John Parrillo’s ability to elicit a lot of different results from a single piece or equipment, or even a single exercise. Am I making sense?

Big Steve, Riggins

Oh, indeed you are making perfect sense. For example, in a seminar John Parrillo will demonstrate how in the leg press, varying foot positions will elicit differing muscular results. Spread the feet wide and set them on the top of the leg press push plate and stimulate the outside thigh teardrop.  Set the feet narrow and together, put them mid-plate causes an entirely different segment of the thighs are stimulated. John can show you five different ways to back squat, six different ways to row, seven different ways to bench, curls? Triceps? You name a muscle, name an exercise and John can show you six differing ways to perform an exercise. If you are limited in equipment, experiment, become your own lab experiment. How does differing grip widths affect your pecs, delts and triceps? Pay attention to next day soreness, this is a great way to determine if your targeting is accurate. If you blasted your biceps and triceps, when you feel the soreness the next day – where exactly is it? In the inside of the arm? The outside head? Are you feeling it in the brachialis or the front delts? Variety is the spice of life. Be experimental and play with technical variations in order to create new and different muscular inroads.

2020-01-01T18:26:34-05:00 January 1st, 2020|Iron Vic Speaks, The Press|

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