By Iron Vic Steele
I am a pretty good female bodybuilder up here in Montana. I am 50 and have been competing off and on for 20 years (more off than on, recently.) I am naturally lean and wiry. Being overweight has never been an issue. For me, the battle has always been adding muscle. Anyway, the training is good, my bodyweight is good – but over the past year my energy has nosedived. I live a physical life here on the ranch. My workouts are suffering. Any ideas??
The first thing I think of for a super active lady your age is iron deficiency anemia. My wife is a hell of an athlete, lean and lithe. When she turned 50, she too experienced energy drop offs for no real reason. She maintained a heavy workload as a horse trainer. She worked hard every day like you. She hadn’t changed her diet one iota – she is very strict, she naturally likes good bodybuilding foods and out-of-bounds eating makes her sick. For no real reason, other than age, she experienced a serious loss of energy. She looked pale all the time. It got concerning when her low energy condition hung on for six months. Though my wife had tried about every Parrillo product, she had never seriously tried Parrillo Liver Amino Formula™ because “the pills were too big.” I got her to get over this and she began taking three tablets every 2-3 waking hours. Over the course of her day she would take between 20-30 tablets. Each beef liver tab is loaded with heme iron, an antidote to iron deficiency. She was very consistent and within two weeks her energy spiked dramatically. Her paleness disappeared. She cut back to a liver amino “maintenance dose” of 15 tabs spread out over the day. Each of these powerhouse tabs contains 1.5 grams of high BV protein. I would advise you give this Liver Amino Formula™ a try; it worked well for my cowgirl and might work well for you.
If you were to design a back routine for a young bodybuilder competing in novice competition, what exercises, sets and reps would you suggest? I am a 5-8, 165-pound 27-year old bodybuilder with a weak back. I have a lot of motivation to bring it up. From the front, I am as good as anyone I compete against. From the side, I am as good as anyone I compete against. When we turn around, my lack of a back sinks my placing. From the front and side, I am a winner, viewed from behind, I am a loser. I want to bring my back up and am willing to put in the work – what would you advise? I could train back twice a week for an hour.
Jimmy Z., Newport Beach
There once was a very good pro bodybuilder named Paul Dillet. From the front view and side view, Paul was Mr. Olympia. When viewed from the rear, he was Mr. Nobody. Paul had it all, incredible arms, deltoids so good that Mr. Olympia Larry Scott once said, ‘Paul has the best deltoids I have ever seen on a human.’ Paul had legs: excellent thighs and 20-inch calves, great muscle clarity and delineation, freaky vascularity, incredibly wide shoulders, narrow hips, towering height (6-3) and size (he competed weighing 270.) That was the good news – the bad news was that Dillet’s back was so subpar that people used to gasp when he turned around. I remember sitting in the front row of the press section at the Night of Champions at prejudging. Big Paul came out massive and ripped and blew us away with his double front bicep, his most muscular and single thigh pose. Then he turned around to do a lat spread and the two people seated on my left gasped, as if they’d seen someone with a horrible deformity. Paul looked hollow between his shoulder blades and he had no erectors. It looked like two different people. I applaud you for attacking your weak points instead of continually playing to your strengths. The good news is weak points come up quick; the bad news is weak points are not fun to train, that’s why you never train them. I will assume you know the proper techniques for the exercises I list.
Deadlift, Romanian deadlift, Seated cable row, pulldowns
Yates 70-degree row, Dumbbell shrug (seated,) Machine row, hyper-extensions
I would place these back workouts at opposite ends of the training week. Train legs on a day midway between the two back workouts. I would concentrate on five rep sets in the deadlift and Romanian (or stiff-leg) deadlift. 6-rep sets work well on the Dorian Yates-style 70-degee row. Seated dumbbell shrugs, pulldowns, machine rows and prone hyper-extensions are done for 8-10 rep sets. Drink a serving or two of 50-50 Plus™ after each of these back-specialization sessions. Over a ten-week period, drive up the poundage. Your lack of a back will be a thing of the past. You can avoid Dillet syndrome.
I wanted to thank you for your advice a few years ago. My wife had a serious addiction to chocolate. I don’t know if you remember, but you suggested I “switch out” the sugar-laden real chocolate with healthy, potent Parrillo chocolate-flavored products. That strategy worked like a charm. The whole strategy depended on the Parrillo products having real chocolate taste – enough chocolate ‘realism’ to satisfy a choc-a-holic. Right about the time I wrote you, Parrillo introduced Chocolate Fix protein powder™. She fell in love with Chocolate Fix™ shakes. She also loves the chocolate cherry cordial and chocolate almond coconut Parrillo Energy bars™. Then she got into the Parrillo chocolate pudding mix™ and the Parrillo chocolate cake mix™. She is 25-pounds lighter and off chocolate. Thanks for the invaluable advice.
Roy, Virginia Beach
I myself love chocolate a little too much. I found that as I got older, I developed a taste for sweets that I never had as younger man. To make a long story short, I too used the ‘switch out’ tactic. I would start my day with a double Parrillo Hi-Protein™ shake. I would then eat a fudge brownie Protein bar mid-morning. Mid-afternoon I would drink a chocolate Optimized Whey™ protein shake and consume a Parrillo Soft Chew™ bar (chocolate.) After training I would have a double serving of chocolate Parrillo 50-50 Plus™. In the evening while watching TV I would binge with my favorite treat: Parrillo Hi-protein chocolate cake/cupcake mix™ topped with Parrillo chocolate frosting mix™. Before bed I would drink a Parrillo Chocolate Fix™ protein powder shake. After six weeks of this approach I was OVER chocolate. What makes is work is how delicious and how chocolate-like all these Parrillo products are. If the taste was pale or chemical-tasting, it wouldn’t work. We have had tremendous success using this approach. Whenever you have an urge for chocolate – grab a Parrillo chocolate-flavored product. Thanks for relating this very cool success story; this chocolate switch-out has been helping chocolate freaks liberate themselves.
I wanted to ask about leg extensions – do you recommend them? I have never heard you talk about them in the 10-years I have been reading your column. I am an intermediate level guy and can set my thighs on fire using leg extensions. If you do them, what kind of sets and reps and frequency do you recommend?
Donny, Fort Worth
The leg extension is a fine finishing exercise. I think of isolation exercises like the leg extension as dessert – you need to eat your meat and potatoes first (squats, leg presses, hack squats) and if you have room left over, have some dessert. I would make the leg extension as a final thigh exercise. Sets and reps? Leg extensions favor high reps. I would shoot for 10-12 reps embracing the burn. 2-3 sets of high rep leg extensions done after squats and leg presses will leave you wobbly-legged in the best way. Be sure to fully extend on each rep. Most guys use way too much weight and get a rebound at the bottom of each rep. They do not fully lock out the extension at the top of each rep: be sure and use a “hard” lockout. You want to lock out each rep to the point of cramping. Lower slowly as this increases the degree of difficulty. John Parrillo uses the leg extension to create the ultimate thigh finisher. After hitting positive failure, John will administer 2-3 forced reps. Then, with the help of a second training partner, the two men will raise the leg extension weight so the lifter can perform negative reps. This is the ultimate in leg pump, particularly if you’ve already stuffed yourself on meat and potatoes.
Greetings from Spain,
I am a commercial fisherman that goes out to sea for weeks at a time. I work hard and I am lean. No lifting. The food onboard for the crew is excellent: all kinds of quality seafood and good veg prepared by our fulltime cook. My question is, I belong to a commercial gym and I go and lift when I am home. My question is – which Parrillo bar would you recommend for me to eat while on deck working? I get wore down, particularly in the late afternoon after wrestling gigantic nets filled with fish.
Andreas, San Sabastian
I would go with the Parrillo Energy bar™. This nutritional powerhouse delivers 220 calories with 34-grams of carb and 17-grams of protein. That is a lot of firepower. If you keep the Parrillo Energy Bar™ in a pocket next to your body as you work, when you open it to eat it, the bar will be soft, pliable – and delicious. My favorite Parrillo Energy bar™ is the chocolate almond coconut flavor. It seems impossible that a bar that tastes that sweet and chocolate-y and delicious only has 4-grams of sugar. Incredible. One or two bars midway through a shift will make a big difference: two bars are essentially a meal in a wrapper.
Can a man overcome real symmetrical imbalances? I know there are a lot of variables and every bodybuilder’s situation is slightly different – still, I have rarely if ever seen a man overcome serious genetic structural flaws. I have seen bodybuilders create larger and more muscular versions of themselves – but I have never seen a top-heavy guy or bottom-heavy guy, or narrow-shoulder wide-hip person overcome their imbalances. I can think of a whole lot of famous IFBB pros that had incredible body-parts – body-parts featured on the front covers of leading muscle mags – yet they could not win a minor IFBB event because of terrible structural imbalances.
You are right and you are wrong. The IFBB pro you are likely referring to is the late Mike Matarazzo. Mike appeared on more Muscle Mag covers than anyone in the late 1990s, or rather Mike’s incredible arms or incredible legs appeared on the covers. Mike was cursed with wide hips and narrow shoulders. His imbalance was so great that it was uncorrectable. In perhaps the best case of remedial training, Larry Scott overcame a blocky physique by developing the best deltoids in the game at that time. Skinny legs can be bought up, bottom-heavy-ness can be addressed with upper body specialization. I would never tell a young bodybuilder or athlete, ‘hey, don’t bother trying to correct your structural imbalances; it is a waste of time.’ John Parrillo first training tenant is: “stop continually playing to your strengths, bring up your weak points.” So, you are right in that Matt Matarazzo could never correct his huge structural flaw. On the other hand, countless men have made former weak points strong points.