Basic Bodybuilding 101
There are three fundamental bodybuilding goals. Goal number one is to build muscle. Goal number two is to reduce body fat. The third goal is to create a symmetrical physique by bringing up weak points. Without large and shapely muscle, there is no bodybuilding. Who wants to see a lightly muscled or mildly muscled body? Without leanness, there is no bodybuilding. How can we see muscles, no matter how large, if they are buried under a mountain of body fat? Symmetry is the highest form of the bodybuilding art; amongst competitive bodybuilders, symmetry is held in the highest regard and is the benchmark used to separate the winners from the runners up. To build muscle the bodybuilder engages in hardcore, Parrillo-style progressive resistance training. The weight training is extremely taxing and (to use John’s phrase) “supported” with the ingestion of quality calories, high potency nutrients eaten in multiple “Parrillo meals” (a portion of lean protein, a portion of fiber, a portion of starch) spaced equidistantly throughout the day. Parrillo bodybuilding resistance training is highly systematized, highly sophisticated and highly intense. Building muscle is only half the battle: muscle without leanness is unacceptable. To reduce body fat, the Parrillo bodybuilder skillfully blends fasted cardio (timed aerobic exercise) with precision nutrition. The combination of disciplined nutrition combined with intense, prolonged and repeated cardio forces the body to give up its stored body fat. The Parrillo approach towards weight training, aerobic exercise and nutrition has identifying traits and characteristics that make the Parrillo approach unique and account for its effectiveness.
Parrillo-style progressive resistance training: the Parrillo approach to bodybuilding-style weight training is all about taking a targeted muscle past its capacity. The Parrillo trainee first learns how to go to positive failure safely. They then learn how to go past positive failure safely and consistently. Obviously, if you are lucky enough and fortunate enough to have a training partner, you will be able to obtain and administer forced reps. A forced rep is the ideal way to go past capacity. A perfect forced rep requires a light touch and great concentration. The training partner must be perfectly attuned to the lifter. The idea is to provide just enough assistance to keep the bar moving until lockout. How many forced reps? Use forced reps sparingly; limit them to no more than two per set. Too many forced reps will get you hurt; save them for the top sets. Another way in which to keep a set going after you reach positive failure is to use the ‘drop set’ approach. After hitting positive failure in a set of seated dumbbell curls using a pair of 40s, put the 40s down and immediately pick up a set of 30s and keep curling. When the bodybuilder can no longer curl the 30s, immediately pick up a set of 20s and rep till the burn and lactic acid stops the set. The ultimate in Parrillo intensity is the infamous 100-rep forced-rep belt squat set. Another characteristic of Parrillo bodybuilding style weight training is the use of mixed reps within the workout: low rep sets for power and strength, medium rep sets for maximum hypertrophy, and ultra-high rep (20 to 100 reps) sets for sarcoplasmic conditioning. John recommends a high volume of weight training over the course of the week. Frequent training, longer training, contributes to a stronger, fitter, leaner and more muscular bodybuilder. More is better if more is done right and underpinned with a high-calorie/clean-calorie nutritional approach.
Parrillo-style fascia stretching: you cannot separate Parrillo high intensity hardcore weight training from Parrillo fascial stretching. These contrasting protocols are two sides of the same coin. In the Parrillo approach, the bodybuilder maximally pumps a targeted muscle. Once maximally pumped, the muscle is maximally stretched. A fascia stretch is not your run of the mill toe-touch or gentle yoga asana. A Parrillo fascia stretch is taken up to and then past the current limit of flexibility and pain. Only by seeking to equal or exceed current stretch limits is the fascia stretched. Fascia is the sausage casing that forms the outer boundary of our muscles and lies just beneath the skin. Intense targeted stretching, done repeatedly and correctly, loosens tight fascia, making muscle expansion easier. After every set and every fascia stretch, the bodybuilder then completes the Parrillo protocol by repeatedly flexing the targeted muscle (that has just been pumped and stretched.) The repeated flexions, taken to the point of cramping, expand muscle into newly loosened fascia, pushing the elasticity even further: pump, stretch, flex. This unique Parrillo protocol also improves the user’s range of motion and flexibility. Fascia stretching accelerates recovery and makes the bodybuilder less susceptible to injury; a flexible bodybuilder is far more injury-resistant than a stiff and tight bodybuilder. Stretches are eased into and slowly yet surely taken to the outer limits of pain tolerance. Stretched maximally, the bodybuilder holds this maximal stretch for ten seconds. With each successive repetition, with each subsequent set, the fascia stretches become deeper, more profound and effective: the deeper the stretch the better.
Parrillo-style cardio: bodybuilders perform aerobic exercise for highly specific reasons. Bodybuilders are not doing cardio to improve their endurance or become fitter, bodybuilders are not doing cardio to be able to run a marathon or perform a sport, bodybuilders, ultimately and fundamentally, do aerobics for one reason: to burn off body fat. All those other attributes, health, stamina, fitness, etc., those are just wonderful side benefits. Put differently, if cardio was not effective for burning body fat, bodybuilders would cease doing aerobics immediately and completely. John Parrillo was the first mainstream bodybuilding expert to champion the use of aerobics as a fat burner. Parrillo also liked the fact that aerobics made for fitter bodybuilders able to train longer and more often. The classical bodybuilder strategy is to engage in a fierce cardio session while glycogen stores are low. This combination of nutritional manipulation and timed exercise forces the body to burn stored body fat. Parrillo popularized “fasted cardio,” the idea of blasting away in a sweaty, huffing and puffing aerobic session before breakfast. Taking advantage of low glycogen coming off the sleep-fast, the harder the bodybuilder goes the more body fat the body is forced to burn. Parrillo often has his competitive bodybuilders add a second cardio session at day’s end in the final weeks leading up to a competition. If no carbs are eaten after the second cardio session (usually done after the evening lifting session) the glycogen depletion experienced during sleep is further deepened making the next morning’s cardio all the more effective.
Symmetry: the best physique combines impressive muscle size with razor-sharp conditioning. Symmetry is the final determining factor. In pro bodybuilding everyone is gigantic, and everyone is ripped; when everyone is big and lean, symmetry is used to determine the winner. What constitutes a symmetrical physique? The ancient Greeks suggested neck, arm and calf all be the same size. Which is cool when you think about it – an 18-inch arm, neck and calf would be impressive and symmetrical, particularly if atop a 48-inch chest over an honest 32-inch waist. A pair of 26-inch thighs would replicate the Grecian ideal. Which, actually, would resemble a smaller version of Flex Wheeler. Symmetry is improved by using Parrillo training tactics that place an emphasis on your physical weak points. The good news is weak points come up quick when given proper time and attention. The bad news is weak points are not much fun to train. Reapportion weight training time away from strong and favored body parts. You undoubtedly spend the most time training strong points; time to hit those glaring weak points with the same ferocity previously reserved for the fun stuff. Being too fat also creates glaring symmetrical imbalances. How do you know if your symmetry is accurate if you are packing extra pounds of muscle-obscuring fat on your obliques, frontal abs and butt? Not everyone can create the symmetry of a Flex Wheeler or Sergio Oliva. We might have wide hips and narrow shoulders or a long torso and short legs; we make do with the hand Nature dealt us and create the best possible symmetry for our particular skeletal structure and body type.
Contrasting protocols: In bodybuilding, the only sure thing is eventual stagnation. To ignite progress where none exists, the bodybuilder needs to institute radically different training. You would be amazed how many mainstream personal trainers only have one way to train and one way to diet. The Parrillo Certified Personal Trainer has a veritable arsenal of tools, techniques, tactics and strategies to select from. All training routines need to periodically be rotated. No matter how effective a training split has been, at some point (usually 4-8 weeks) results dry up. When stagnation sets in, the smart bodybuilder has another equally effective, battle-tested training routine ready to go. The trick is to institute a new program that sufficiently contrasts the current stagnant one. A common mistake is to change training routines – but barely change them. When it comes to Parrillo-style progressive resistance training, John Parrillo advises trainees to “Be clear on the variables: you can tweak volume, how much you train; you can alter the duration, how long you train; you can up the intensity, how hard you train.” The only constant in bodybuilding is stagnation and the antidote to stagnation is contrast – stop doing what you’re doing – it isn’t working! Try new and different approaches.
Ebb and flow: truly effective bodybuilding has a natural pendulum-like, ebb and flow. Elite bodybuilders, those that have transformed their own bodies and the bodies of the students and clients, will tell you that when it comes to stimulating progress, alternating between “mass-building” phases and “lean-out” phases is a very natural, doable and sustainable way to eat and train. There really is a “bodybuilding lifestyle” and being a lifestyle implies doing it all year round. Ebb and flow will create natural pendulum swings: periods of maximum anabolism, ideal for growing new muscle, are periodically alternated with periods of maximum metabolic stimulation, ideal for melting off fat. In about the time all the gains have been wrung from an effective mass-building phase, crack back the other direction and shock the body with a lean out phase using a totally new approach. Keep the body guessing in the best and most positive way. Each direction has a wide variety of Parrillo tools, techniques and tactics available for use. Variety is the spice of life. The goal is to keep weight training, cardio and nutrition, fresh, vibrant and interesting. Augment a rock-solid multiple-meal eating schedule with a wide array of Parrillo nutritional supplements. Try and fall into the natural rhythms of bodybuilding. Getting attuned to the ebb and flow of periodic change is the very definition of the bodybuilding lifestyle.