Branch Warren: Mass with Class April 05
Branch "Mass with Class" Warren
The Texas Titan
By Branch Warren
Hey Branch, Shawn Ray has his Muscle Camps and Ronnie Coleman has a thing every year where you can come out to Texas and train with him. Have you and Johnnie Jackson ever thought about doing something like that, so fans and aspiring pros can come out and learn how you two powermongers train for mass?
I have a couple of training issues I hope you can help me with. I love weight training and I spend about two to three hours in the gym every day. My body is starting to achieve a really great shape, but there are two problems. First of all, I don't seem to have much power. Even though my chest is shaping up, I only bench a pathetic 75 pounds. Secondly, my biceps remain very flat and weak-looking even though my arms are 16 inches cold. My age is 18. Thank you for being such an inspiration. I know I have a long way to go until I look like you, but I'm willing to keep at it!
It sounds like you're doing what I used to do when I started lifting weights at age 13, except I went ever further with my enthusiasm. I would train for a good three or four hours every day after school because I was in such a tremendous rush to get big and strong. Luckily, I met up with some older guys at the gym who taught me the lesson that more isn't always better. In fact, when it comes to trying to gain muscle mass and strength, doing too much can definitely keep you from reaching your goals. If you're training all-out, there's no reason it should take you more than an hour or an hour and a half at most to get through a workout. There is a point of diminishing returns with weight training. Your body will grow from a certain amount of stimulation, but doing more than that amount starts putting too heavy a burden on your body's ability to recover and repair damaged muscle fibers for the next workout.
What you want to do is break down the tissue, then let it repair and rebuild itself so it's just a little bit bigger and stronger, then do it all over again. These tiny bits add up over time to enough muscle to turn a pencil neck into a powerhouse. If you interfere with the process by doing too much training (causing too much damage) and working out again too soon (not giving your body a chance to repair the damage before causing more damage), you just won't make any gains. You talk about "shaping up," but I'm not sure you're actually making any progress except for maybe losing some body fat by burning a lot of calories with these marathon workouts. The fact that you have 16-inch arms and can only bench press 75 pounds leads me to believe you may be somewhat obese (a 16-inch muscular arm would certainly go along with a body muscular enough to bench press at least 200-250 pounds).
If your biceps look flat and shapeless, I suspect it's because they are simply covered with a lot of body fat. Once you strip away the fat, I bet you would see more shape to the biceps muscle. It really sounds like you need a basic education on training and nutrition. There's plenty of information to be found in MD and on the ‘Net, but I would strongly suggest hiring a personal trainer to design a solid training and nutrition program for you. Since trainers generally charge by the hour, you'll at least be guaranteed to have shorter, more effective workouts right off the bat. You will also learn correct form and start getting a better idea as to how to structure productive and efficient workouts. Something tells me that right now you're just hanging out in the gym and doing everything that catches your eye or that you can think of, with no plan or purpose. Getting stronger on the bench press and improving the shape of your biceps are going to be by-products of a solid workout and diet regimen. Good luck to you!
I'm from Dallas. Thanks for representing the Lone Star State and showing the world how we do it in Texas! I was wondering if you could tell me what you prefer for cardio. Do you do intense, fast cardio for shorter times (like under a half-hour), or slower-paced cardio for longer periods (like an hour)? Or do you do something else? I'm 5-10, 185 pounds at about 17.5 percent body fat, and I have never been truly cut. I've tried to lose the fat and end up shrinking a lot running three to four miles, four days a week. Any thoughts?
I prefer to do medium intensity for longer periods of about an hour. I arrived at this after trying it a couple of other ways. In the past, I would split up my cardio into a.m. and p.m. sessions, doing as much as two hours total a day. I got in good shape that way, but it was flattening out my muscles and I was also really tired most of the time from so much weight training and cardio every day. Eventually, due to the way my schedule had changed, I could only do cardio once a day, and obviously I wasn't going to do two hours straight. That's just ridiculous for a bodybuilder. I relied more on my diet to get ripped and not so much on excessive cardio, and this turned out to be a great move. I still got in shape, but I had more energy and looked fuller. And of course, you can't overlook the fact that I had a whole other hour of the day freed up to do other things.
If you're losing size, it's probably a diet issue, such as not taking in enough protein to preserve your muscle mass. If you are already getting about a gram and a half of protein per pound of bodyweight, it might be the duration and intensity of your cardio that's responsible. Bodybuilders always walk a fine line with cardio. You have to pay attention to what's going on with your body, because not enough cardio and you won't get in shape, and too much will eat up your muscle. Try doing your jogging on a treadmill so you can keep more accurate records of the distance traveled and calories burned, and adjust accordingly, based on whether you are losing- fat or a combination of fat and muscle. Soon you should find the ideal balance that works best for you.
I have a supplement question I bet you never heard before. I've won a couple of regional shows and will be doing the Nationals for the first time at the end of this year. A couple of pros have told me I have the potential to be one of them in a few years. I was fortunate enough to get a supplement store to sponsor me last summer. In exchange, I have a banner link to their online store on my website, which gets some good traffic, and I wear their shirts to any contest I enter or attend. In return, I go in every month and pick up $200 worth of product, retail value. You and I both know that's not a whole lot of supplements. Anyway, my best friend is also my training partner and a novice-level bodybuilder who, to be blunt, probably won't ever make it past the novice level. He has the heart, but his genetics are the worst. He's over at my apartment a lot and he's always going into my cabinets, mixing up a protein shake for himself here or popping some nitric oxide tablets there. He'll grab a couple of my protein bars without asking before he leaves, and if I have more than one bottle of anything, he always asks to take one. I know he justifies it by thinking I get the stuff free anyway, but he doesn't realize that because he's taking some of what I need, I have to go out and buy more. If I was rolling in dough, I probably wouldn't be so pissed at him, but right now I'm barely paying my bills. How can I let my buddy know without offending him that I need him to leave my stuff alone and get his own?
This reminds me of a lot of "Seinfeld" episodes, where there would be some simple problem that could have been solved in two minutes if the characters just weren't so mortally terrified of offending each other. Instead, the problems usually escalated, with hilarious results, but this is no sitcom you're talking about and it isn't that wacky Kramer who's taking your stuff. The next time your buddy tries to help himself to your supplements, you need to sit down and explain that this can't continue. He may not realize that he's costing you money by taking the products you need on a daily basis to be the best bodybuilder you can be. He might even be under the mistaken impression that you get anything you want from that store for free. If so, break it all down so he understands you're just getting a certain amount and that's it. If he's a real friend, he'll be sorry and apologize, and he sure won't ever pilfer your protein powder again. I wouldn't point out that you have much better potential, because that would probably cause a rift between you two, but you can let him know that you are gearing up for the most important show of your life so far in just a few months, and you need all the help you can get. This is true- the NPC Nationals are no joke. A true friend would support you and want you to win, or at least do the best you can. He wouldn't make the show an even bigger challenge than it already is. Whatever happens, by confronting him on this you'll be sure to find out if he's really on your team or not.
I need to lose my love handles for summer and I'm thinking about going on the Atkins diet for about eight weeks or so. I want to know if you diet on no carbs, or if you have low-carb days and high-carb days, or if you do something else. I ask because I don't want to lose any muscle, just fat, and I'm afraid that without carbs I'll drop a lot of muscle mass, even in eight weeks.
I don't believe in eating zero carbs, especially for bodybuilders. What I prefer to do when I diet is to cycle my carbs. For three to five days, I'll eat 50-100 grams of carbs a day. It's three to five because it depends on what's going on with my body and mind. Usually, I can make it four or five days on that low amount of carbs, but I sure am feeling it. I get tired and listless, and it's a struggle not to have a cranky demeanor. My muscles flatten out quite a bit. Occasionally I will reach a point by the third day where I know it's time to load for a couple of days, so for two days I'll eat 400-500 grams of carbs. That fills up my muscle glycogen stores, my energy and mood bounce right back and then I'm ready to lower the carbs again. Doing it this way allows me to keep dropping fat while maintaining my size. I'm pretty carb-sensitive, meaning carbs make me hold a lot of water. I seem to have figured out the carb-loading process for contests pretty well, so that I take in just enough for just the right amount of time to fill out and keep that dry, grainy look to the muscles without spilling over and turning into the Water Boy. Eight weeks of cycling your carbs like I do, along with hitting your cardio, and you should lose your love handles and keep your mass.
Branch, I'm 14 years old and have never been on a date or kissed a girl. I suck at sports and I'm really small for my age. I bet if I were huge like you I would have all the girls fighting each other to go out with me. I am thinking about becoming a bodybuilder, but first I want to know: Do girls really love muscles? Do you have to beat them off with a stick, or what?
Man, this letter could have been written by me when I was your age! I started lifting right around then for two reasons: one, to get girls to like me, and two, to be a better football player. As I got older and learned more about women, I realized they are very different from men. We tend to be very visual in what attracts us. Beautiful women with nice figures get our attention every time. Women are more emotional about the attraction and courting process. A guy with a great personality and oozing with confidence, a guy with "game," is what draws most females. Being handsome and in shape on top of that helps, but it's very common to see a guy who isn't much to look at physically walking around with a drop-dead gorgeous woman.
Some guys haven't figured out the deal yet and get frustrated when they see this, like, "What the hell is that goddess doing with a dork like him? Aw, he must be rich or something." No, once you start dating and getting to know different women, and really listen when they talk, you'll start to understand that a man's exterior isn't so important at all to them. So, by all means, go ahead and start training, but don't do it thinking the women of the world are going to be tripping over each other to hook up with you. It's not like that. In fact, if you ever get to look like an elite bodybuilder, you'll find out that gay men are a lot more interested in muscular men than women are! If you want to be successful with women, I would make sure you work just as hard on your personality and confidence as you do your body. Trust me- I have known bodybuilders who didn't, and the closest most of them got to hot women was looking at pictures of them on the Internet.
My holidays were pretty mellow and laid-back, spent with family and friends. For New Year's, we went out to dinner and got home pretty early. I always try to stay off the roads with all those drunks behind the wheel.
The cast is off my arm now and I've resumed training, with very light weights, of course. Actually, for chest, shoulder and triceps work, I have to go super light, but on legs I can train the way I normally do. For back, I can do everything I usually do except I can't really lower the weight to a full stretch on the negative part of the rep. Doing that really strains my elbow. It takes about two months for the tendon to fully reattach itself and I had the surgery over a month ago now, actually six weeks. I have roughly 90 percent range of motion in that arm already, which is encouraging. I lost a lot of strength over the last two months and that's tough for me to deal with mentally. Actually, not being able to train and knowing I was getting weaker by the day was practically driving me insane, but a recent revelation kept me from being stupid and jumping the gun.
Looking back now, I am fairly certain that a big part of why my triceps tore was related to my biceps tear a couple of years ago. I thought I knew more than the doctor did back then and I got back into training before I should have. As a result, the triceps was overcompensating for the weak biceps in a lot of exercises. I say this because now I realize that my elbow never really started hurting much until after I tore my biceps. It was actually a bursal sac that ruptured inside my elbow. Now I know better and I was very careful to wait exactly as long as the doctor told me to before starting to do anything. I can't screw up again. I hope to be back training close to balls to the wall by the first week of February. That should give me plenty of time to show up at the New York Pro show on May 21 with the improvements I want to display. Moving up from eighth at the NOC to fourth at the GNC was a motivating experience and I plan on doing even better this May in New York.
My private training gym, Maximum Fitness, is doing really well. Right after New Year's, we signed up seven new clients, whom I hope stick to their resolutions. All in all, I am very excited about 2005 and I'm glad to be able to share it with the MD readers. Later, y'all!
Got a question for Branch? E-mail it to him through http://www.musculardevelopment.com/.