By Iron Vic Steele
I am burnt out on bodybuilding. I am coming off peaking for a contest and I am in the best shape of my life coming off the best training year of my life. In large part due to the great advice I got from you. I had been using halfway measures for years. I was halfway committing to the process, I never committed with the totality needed that John Parrillo insists on. After reading one of your posts, I got onto a serious Parrillo mass-building program. I began last January and ran with it for almost four months. I then swung into a Parrillo ‘lean-out’ phase and was able to whittle down to a 7% body fat percentile (BodyStat-checked) while weighing a shapely 175. I did a best-body-on-the-beach thing last week. I am too light and bordering on not healthy. I have gone as far as I can go. I am burned out and worn down. Any ideas?
Jimmy, St. Louis
Take some time off from training. Enjoy the beach! Take a well-deserved vacation. Stop all training of any kind for two full weeks. Give your overworked body a complete rest. Be smart and when not training keep the nutrition under control. The smart athlete will reduce caloric intake during the two-week layoff from training. A few weeks of complete nothingness ‘detunes’ the body and makes it far more susceptible to the ‘the training effect.’ It is easier to trigger hypertrophy from weight training and fat loss from cardio when coming off a layoff. When it comes time to recommence, reintroduce aerobic training with “fasted cardio.” Early morning pre-breakfast aerobic exercise will kick start the bodybuilding process. Reignite the weight training with three sessions (no more) per week, limiting session length to 40-minutes. A layoff will do you a world of good. Just don’t break yourself jumping back in after the layoff too fast, too heavy and too hard. Athletes coming off a peak, be it a competition or a show, need a rest and recovery period. When refreshed, a bodybuilder is so much stronger and stronger converts into better workouts and increased muscle gain. You will be amazed of how much fresher and more enthused you are about training and bodybuilding after an enforced layoff. Listen to the body and give it a well-deserved break. You will come back online revitalized and fired up. Pick a new goal, establish a timeline and start to chip away at it; work towards the new goal one methodical week at a time.
What is an ‘anabolic burst?’ I have heard the phrase but never quite understood what it is or what it meant. It sounds cool – is this anything worth sharing – or doing? I am always up for your (often) unusual tips and strategies.
Depleted bodybuilders coming off competitions discovered that 3-7 days after a show they looked better and felt better than they did at the show. They were mystified at this predictable phenomenon. The dramatic infusion of calories the bodybuilders ate after the show blew up their depleted bodies and became known as the “anabolic burst.” For a few short days, the competitive bodybuilder could eat like a pig and become fuller, thicker, more muscular – and just as shredded as they were at the competition. What happened? What caused this? An anabolic burst only works if the athlete is depleted. This is the prerequisite: unless you are starved, overworked and underfed, there can be no burst. The depleted bodybuilder then floods his starved body with loads of calories and for a miraculous (and short) period of time, no calories are converted to fat. The depleted bodybuilder’s body has “forgotten” how to make body fat. For a few days immediately after a competition, 10 to 20 pound gains in bodyweight are routinely experienced. This while retaining the same body fat percentile they presented at the competition. Because of this ‘fat-creating amnesia,’ calories can be consumed at a tremendous rate with zero chance these calories can be partitioned to creating body fat. “Spillover” occurs when the body relearns or remembers how to create body fat. How long does the anabolic burst last before spillover occurs? 3-5 days seems to be the limit. Once the burst subsides, body fat production is normalized. The next time you find yourself starved and overworked, remember to burst – but bail at spillover.
I am a rock climber. I have scaled El Capitan and Mt. McKinley. I am a serious guy and my grip strength, finger and hand strength, is really important. I notice that in the old days the bodybuilders did a lot of forearm work. Nowadays you don’t see a lot of ‘lower arm’ work or grip strengthening. Do you have any tips for building an ‘eagle-claw’ grip?
In the old days, men like Bill Pearl and Arnold would train forearms 2-3 times a week for upwards of 45-minutes per session, using wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, reverse curls, wrist rollers and hand grippers. A typical mid-seventies bodybuilder would perform over 40-sets per week of direct forearm work. Bodybuilders work their forearms to increase the size and shape of the lower arm. Grip strength is entirely different than forearm work, though the two are often intertwined. For developing a powerhouse grip, I would suggest a radically different approach. Powerlifters have to hang onto 800-pound deadlifts (talk about grip strength!) and will use some unusual exercises to build grip strength. One particular exercise that might be applicable for your type of grip strength is the double overhand shrug done to failure. Shrug with a relatively light poundage (a man capable of a 300-pound deadlift would use 150) for high reps. Shrug to failure and beyond. This is a grip-builder, not a trap builder – though the traps get a hell of a pump! The idea is to keep shrugging until the barbell starts to open your hands. You don’t quit, you keep shrugging and holding on – even when the barbell is on the tips of the fingers. The lifter fights to hang onto the bar and keep shrugging until the barbell opens the hands and falls off the fingertips. Most lifters do this exercise in a power rack, or atop a pair of boxes; when the bar falls out of the fatigued fingers, it only drops a few inches onto the rack pins or the boxes. 15-rep sets are a minimum; this type of training builds incredible finger strength.
I love the Parrillo quote, ‘there is no such thing as over-training – only under-eating’ and it hit home with me. I don’t eat much food and I train hard. I am NOT a competitive bodybuilder or really even an amateur bodybuilder; however, I am in the gym five mornings a week doing hard cardio, this starts my every session and is followed by 45-minutes of weight training. I have been in this groove for two years and don’t have a lot to show for it. I am a little more muscular and have maintained my natural leanness; I just haven’t experienced the muscle gains I expected. I am healthier – but not much stronger. I train hard (as I can) so perhaps my ‘under-eating’ is holding me back. I don’t cook and I live in Manhattan. I eat my one meal at night. What would you suggest? (Though I think I know the answer already!)
Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition…You are correct in your assessment: if you are doing consistent cardio, if you are weight training hard and regularly and not progressing, then the only thing left to hone in on nutrition. You are positioned nicely to make some spectacular gains. You are doing so many things right already: you are a hard, consistent trainer and you are in shape. You are (relatively) lean already. Fit and lean, you under-eat. By kicking up the clean calories the logjam becomes unstuck. You have to be willing to add some bodyweight: a sizeable percentage of bodybuilders are under the mistaken belief that they can muscle-up to a significant degree – yet stay the same bodyweight. Size gains require weight gain: get your head wrapped around this inconvenient truth. If you’re ready to add some lean muscle mass, it should be relatively easy. You need to take in more calories, a lot more calories – however the calories need to be “clean” calories. Just by adding breakfast and lunch and taking some Parrillo supplements during the day (and continuing your nighttime eating habits) you can expect to add 10-pounds of lean muscle mass in the next 8-10 weeks.
You need to make a commitment to start your day with a powerhouse breakfast. Eggs and oatmeal. Learn to use CapTri® C8 MCT with all your food meals. Augment all day long with potent Parrillo supplements. Upon awaking and before the gym, drink a Parrillo Optimized Whey™ shake. Take some Max Endurance Formula™ capsules before you begin training. After finishing the weight training portion of the workout, drink a 50-50 Plus™ replenishment shake. Mid-morning eat a Parrillo Energy bar™ and drink a ProCarb™ shake. Go out for lunch, some protein along with a salad. Mid-afternoon eat a Parrillo Soft Chew bar™. Eat a good dinner. By ingesting clean calories every 2-3 waling hours and combining this with hard training, you sir, are in for the gains of your life! Get ready to blow some minds, starting with your own. And all you have to do is eat more delicious foods and take in more equally delicious supplements.
How would you train an MMA fighter? There are a lot of different strategies and schools of thought on how best to train a fighter. I know you are a fight fan – you must have some thoughts on how best to get a fighter ready to fight, using the rounds format.
Ronnie, New Orleans
There is a lot I really like about MMA training – however I feel there is huge bias within the MMA world that creates a blind spot that is glaring and obvious. What I like about MMA training is their emphasis on hardcore cardio: these guys don’t play! The MMA protocol is to mix muscular effort with aerobic exercise, this to replicate stresses encountered in cage fighting. The MMA pros train to avoid “gassing out.” When a fighter gasses out, they exhaust their capacity to continue. To increase cardio capacity, fighters engage in intense and exhaustive drills. For example, the fighter might “stack” five exercises, versa-climber, shadow boxing with hand-weights, aerodyne stationary bike sprint, kettlebell snatch and carrying a 100-pound heavy bag around the circumference of the gym. This 5-exercise sequence might be repeated five times with a one-minute break between each 5-station sequence. The goal of this type of training is “to build a bigger gas tank.” Regardless if the gas tank is 10-gallons or 20-gallons, when it is gone, exhausted, the athlete’s blood sugar plummets and they are weakened to a point they can hardly raise their arms to defend themselves. My suggestion is to compliment the quest for a bigger gas tank with some ‘real’ strength training. Size and strength are the reason weight classes are needed. There are weight classes because size and strength disparities cannot be overcome. A good really big man beats a good little man every time. I would add some serious strength training – but no more than 90-minutes per week.