Mass with Class Nov 06
My back is coming along except the lower area. It totally sucks! I noticed that when the top pros twist their bodies or turn sideways, they're lower lats are highly visible. I've been doing chins and pulldowns, but they're just not jutting out at the bottom. What is the best way to get this look to the lats?
The first thing you need to consider is that where your lats attach at the bottom is largely determined by genetics. Some guys have high lats, while others look as if they're tucked into their waist. But you're on the right track by making the best with what Mother Nature gave you. Anybody can improve their physique by paying close attention to their deficits.
There are a few different ways to handle this dilemma. The easiest is by targeting the area specifically with close-grip chins and pulldowns. The closer grip on these types of movements works the lats down further toward the insertions. Wide-grip chins and pulldowns work more of the upper area of the lats right under the armpits. Grabbing the handle closer to the middle stretches the lats all the way down to the bottom. If you opt for a closer grip with a straight bar, I recommend going underhand as it allows you to pull further back and down for a deep contraction. Those are the most obvious methods for developing the lower lats. However, they aren't the best. For my money, nothing beats heavy rowing movements for beefing up the lower region of the lat muscles. Simply holding a heavy barbell or dumbbell with your torso bent over pulls the lats out right where they attach at the waist.
My favorite movement of late for doing just that is the one-arm dumbbell row. I do these a little differently from everybody else; it's a version Johnnie Jackson and I discovered while training together. Instead of bracing one side of the body on a bench, I do these by resting my free arm across my leg. I take a wide stance so that the dumbbell is sitting between my legs. And here's the crucial part for hitting the lower lats- let the weight drift forward slightly. That little tweak at the start pulls it out for a great stretch. It forces you to pull slightly across your body. Plus, you can't cheat by pushing off with your leg as you would if you were on a bench. Seated pulley rows are another great movement for stretching the lats all the way out. It's best to use a narrow grip to get a full range of motion. At the beginning, lean forward and really feel that pull in the lower lats. Aside from the movements I listed above, virtually all rowing movements will work the middle and lower lats to a greater degree than chinning or pulldown movements. So if your lower lats are lagging, focus your attention on heavy barbell rows, dumbbell rows and the like. Doing so won't guarantee you'll have lats that look as if they're tucked into your pockets, but they'll sure look better than they do now
I really admire your physique because of your thickness and density. I think you have the classic powerful build from the golden era. My own structure is similar to yours, though I obviously don't carry your mass, but you know what I mean. I'm 5'6" and weigh 200 in contest shape. Although I'm no Melvin Anthony, I've always had a relatively small waist. But in the past two shows I've done, my waist has gotten thicker. A judge advised me to get it tighter if I want to place well in the future. You've kept your waist down despite adding overall mass. How can I keep from getting a blocky waist and destroying my aesthetics?
I never train my abs specifically for that reason. In my opinion, they get worked hard enough from all the heavy lifting I do for legs, back, etc. I used to train them in the beginning, but in the interest of keeping the waist as tight as possible for that V-taper, I decided not to train them for a show. I went on to win it and I haven't looked back since. With my structure, training abs would just thicken my waist and detract from my taper, which is the exact opposite of the direction I'm headed toward. Your training should always be based on your individual needs. Just because so-and-so trains abs every day or with weight doesn't mean you should follow suit. Try it out and see if it helps.
Sometimes I see pictures of the pros wearing knee wraps during squats or leg presses. Should I wrap my knees too in order to prevent tendon damage?
I don't believe in wrapping my knees unless I've got a lot of weight on the bar. If you wrap your knees all the time, you won't strengthen the ligaments and tendons. In the long run, that will be more detrimental. Keep the wraps to a minimum if you want strong knees. I reserve the wrapping for my heaviest sets only.
I've been doing my cardio, weights and dieting to lose the spare tire attached to my waist. I'm getting really sick of this beached whale look and will do anything to lose the blubber. Should I stop training with weights and just do tons of cardio?
A lot of people- including my clients- mistakenly assume that cardio is all they should be doing when they want to strip body fat. Nine times out of 10, that's the myth I bust from the get-go. Training with weights does a few things that speed up the fat loss process. First of all, the more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism. Muscle burns calories, even at rest. In effect, your body becomes a fat-burning furnace, even when you're lying on the couch watching the tube. Second, training with weights keeps your metabolism elevated far longer than cardio. Third, if you've ever seen people who lose weight by doing just cardio (which is possible, albeit longer), you'll notice that they have a flat, almost loose-skinned appearance. I attribute that to a couple of factors. When you lose excess fat too quickly, your skin doesn't get a chance to bounce back. Skin is extremely elastic and the more it gets stretched out, the longer it takes to fit snugly over the body. The result is an almost flabby look, even though your body fat is gone. Building up the muscles reduces that problem because now your skin contracts over a greater area than it would have without the new muscle. Second, once you remove the layer of blubber you want to have something to show. After all, since you worked hard to get rid of it shouldn't you reward yourself? And what better reward than big, dense, proportionately developed muscle? You didn't strip off the fat just to display skin and bones. You want 100 percent, USDA Choice beef on those bones. So always keep the weight training in the program. Lift heavy and hard (is there any other way?) to build muscle. It'll keep your metabolism humming and make you look better once the fat is gone.
The greatest asset at your disposal in the war on fat will be patience. If you want to take it off- and keep it off- you need to do it slowly. That's why we start our dieting and cardio anywhere from eight to 12 weeks out from the show. Just as it took time to gain it, it will take time to lose it. Keep adjusting the degree of each prong on the pitchfork (diet, weight training, cardio), manipulating it so you continue progressing toward your goal. You can't do the exact same thing for months on end and expect identical results. It's just like training; if you were doing the same workout with the same weight for the past six months, you haven't progressed. As a result, there's no need for your muscles to adapt and your body will show it. Take the same approach to fat loss. Increase your cardio incrementally over the weeks. For illustration purposes, here's what it could look like:
30 minutes 2-3 weeks
45 minutes 2-3 weeks
60 minutes 2-3 weeks
Road to the Olympia
Training & Lifestyle Journal- August, 2006
With the contest only a few weeks away, my sites are locked onto the Orleans Arena stage. The intensity of my focus has reached new heights. I was always able to concentrate no matter what, but now it's even more pronounced. When I was a kid, I would watch the other bodybuilders- the big boys- to see how they trained. I wanted to pack on size so I studied the guys who already had it. Speaking of which, I think that's one of the best ways to learn. I'm all for researching and reading on the optimal way to train and eat, but you need to augment that with real-world experience. There are certain things you learn from being immersed in that environment you won't necessarily pick up from books. In addition, training with seasoned veterans advances your knowledge in the sport at a tremendous rate. I was lucky enough to train with a bunch of hardcore guys who showed me the true meaning of intensity. Of course, watching the greatest bodybuilder in the world train just a few feet from you is an education in itself. Add all this real-world experience with the knowledge I was getting from books and magazines and you have a complete and thorough education of a bodybuilder. And that education is taking me to places I never imagined possible.
I had an e-mail from a fan complaining about certain people he didn't particularly like in the gym. I'm so dialed into my preparations that I don't notice anything else happening around me. That's especially important when you're training for something as big as the Mr. Olympia. However, that level of concentration is something you need to bring to your training day in and day out; I don't care if you're training for the Olympia or the In-N-Out Challenge. If it's leg day, it shouldn't matter if a bikini contest is taking place by the squat racks. You clear a space, slide under that bar and get down in the hole. A lot of younger guys who are starting out tell me it's hard to concentrate because of all the people standing around and talking or because the gym isn't playing their brand of music. To me those are all excuses. Are you going to let some trivial nuisance interrupt your training? The way I see it, I get one chance to train and one chance only. I'm not going to blow it. If I waste today there's no getting it back; my time is far too valuable. I'm trying to accomplish a goal and nothing will stand in my way, least of all something that doesn't concern me in the least.
The gym to me is the same as an office is for others. It's a place of business and the business is building my body. You wouldn't go to the office and goof off or bother your co-workers, right? Now unfortunately, the world is full of flakes who would answer that question with an emphatic "Yes!" And there are plenty of people who go to the gym purely to socialize or be total idiots. But you can't let these fools get to you. The bottom line is that you're there to do your job. When I'm at the gym, I'm all business. I don't stop to talk or socialize, and although that may not be condoned in some fitness establishments, that's perfectly all right at Metroflex. This is the epitome of a hardcore gym. I'm lucky to have such an environment to train in. But I've been in my fair share of gyms and I know what hardcore trainers have to suffer through. But I also know that it's possible to tune out all the b.s. It comes down to control. Are you going to let your environment control you or are you going to take charge?
If you're training hard, the outside world doesn't exist. You're caught up in the moment. You're mind-to-muscle link is stronger than steel (and if it isn't, what the hell are you doing in the gym anyway?). You're feeling every rep. You look forward to the next set, getting more than you're training partner and heightening that crucial link. When I'm done training, I look up and notice that a couple of hours have passed. It seems like the blink of an eye, but that's what happens when you're in the zone. Once you're feeling it on the inside, nothing on the outside matters. That's the concentration you should've built up when you were first starting out. It's just as important to build your mental power as it is to build your physical power. In fact, you can't have the second without the first. It's like developing your body. Through the years, as you put on more size, your level of concentration should follow suit. It's not easy and it's not automatic- at least not initially. But once you get it, it never goes away. It keeps getting stronger and stronger. That's why a professional can get more out of every single rep than a novice ever can. That's why I can train smack dab in the middle of Carnaval (you get my point). It takes time and above all, practice. So instead of getting pissed off because of some jerk-off in the corner, keep your mind focused on what you came to do. That's the level of commitment and concentration it takes to really work out. As we speak, that's exactly what I'm doing to bring my all-time best package to the Olympia. See you in Vegas!