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The Priest Confessional

By Lee Priest

 

            I always try to focus on myself and my own workouts, but there is one jerkoff at my gym who's just pissing me off like you wouldn't believe. He walks around with his arms stuck out like he's as big as Ronnie Coleman, even though he's only about 5-11, 190 pounds. He's totally loud and obnoxious, slamming weights and constantly swearing like he's one of the Sopranos. The solution would be to talk to the owner, except he's the owner's brother-in-law! I almost feel like going to a different gym so I don't have to be around this jackass, but this is the only gym around for miles with decent equipment. Have you ever had people who annoyed you like this, and do you have any ideas for me?

            I see people like this all the time. Every gym has at least one or two of these characters and I always shake my head at how delusional they are.  These guys live in their own little world where they could win the Mr. Olympia, the World Powerlifting Championships, or the UFC title any time they wanted to.  They are usually on a lot of drugs like test, Anadrol, or trenbolone that heighten aggression, which is something jerks like this really don't need. They tend to be hostile enough. The really sad thing is that because they make so much noise and strut around like King Kong, the public gets most of their impression of bodybuilders from them, rather than from guys like me and most serious bodybuilders I personally know, who are low-key, quiet and polite. I don't scream at the top of my lungs or slam weights, no matter how heavy I'm training. But then again, I'm not looking for attention. 

Guys like the nimrod at your gym are constantly seeking attention, even if it's negative. As a result, a lot of people at the gym and other places where these fools are seen get an image of bodybuilders as dimwitted, belligerent thugs, and this perception carries over to the rest of us who are nothing like that. But what are you going to do? Kidnap the guy and force him to go through psychotherapy to work out all the issues that cause him to behave this way? Or maybe have him castrated so he's nice and docile? No, the best tactic is to simply ignore him and his childish antics, as difficult as this may be. If you can't do that, maybe you could train at a different time of day than he does. All I can tell you is that you are wasting valuable mental energy focusing so much on this jerk. I do encourage you to go out of your way to be nice to the other gym members so they can see that not all bodybuilders or serious weight trainers are like that guy. And look on the bright side: These types often train far too heavy and with shitty form, so the odds are good he will seriously injure himself sooner or later and disappear from the gym! 

 

            I'm not sure what I should be doing about post-workout nutrition. The magazines say to have a shake with whey protein, simple sugars, glutamine and creatine, but I know some pros just go right home or to a restaurant and have a real meal like chicken and rice. Do you think it matters whether you do the shake or the real food? What do you have right after training?

            With me, it's a timing issue. I prefer to eat real food after training, within 20 or 30 minutes at the latest. So, if I can get to my home or a restaurant right away, I will definitely do that. Right now, I live five or 10 minutes away from the gym I train at, so I almost always go straight home where I have a meal cooked already that just needs a minute in the microwave to warm up. There are times when I have to run an errand or two, or have an appointment somewhere right after training, and I won't be able to get to a meal for an hour or more. In those cases, I plan ahead and bring a shake with me.

The shakes I make are basically what you outlined in your question. For now, that seems to be the consensus as to what we should be putting into them. But like Ronnie Coleman, I feel like my body is starving for a real meal, a nice big plate of chicken and rice or maybe steak and a potato, something that's really filling, after a workout. Does it matter? I don't think it does, not a whole lot, because a lot of people do one or the other and everyone seems to be doing just fine. If you want to play it safe, have a shake right after training, not a huge shake mind you, and then get to your real meal about a half-hour later.  That should be plenty of nutrients for your body to use to re-stock what was lost from training.

 

Lately I keep hearing on the Internet about this style of cardio called "Max OT," where you only do 16 minutes, but as intense as possible. And you are supposed to make it progressive just like weight training, so every time you increase either the distance you cover or the total calories burned.  Supposedly, this is the absolute most effective way to burn fat and still preserve all your muscle. What do you think, Lee? Have you ever tried anything like this? Would you recommend it?

            It sounds like a load of shit to me. I don't care how much you run your ass off, 16 minutes is not enough cardio to burn a significant amount of fat.  This sounds to me like just another example of people being lazy and wanting to get in and out of the gym as fast as possible. I've been listening for years as personal trainers and other so-called experts scolded me about my workouts.  Two-hour workouts are too much, Lee. You're overtraining, Lee, you'll never grow that way. Here I am years later, bigger than ever despite my overtraining transgressions, and meanwhile, the intellectually superior guys bitching me out are still small and skinny.

These abbreviated workouts are often a little scheme personal trainers use to hustle clients in and out of the gym faster so they can train more people and make more money. Not to disrespect the late Mike Mentzer, but the few times when I saw him putting clients through his patented one-set-to-failure workouts, I had to bite my tongue. What I felt like saying was, "That's it? That's all you're having them do?" Theoretically, they all should have left me in the dust and grown to monstrous proportions while I steadily shriveled down to nothing. But it didn't happen.

I saw something on TV the other day for an eight-second ab workout.  No, not eight minutes, eight seconds! How fucking lazy does someone have to be that they can't even spend a full 10 seconds training abs? Shit, I hate ab training as much, if not more, than the next person, but I know it takes at least 15 or 20 minutes to get the job done right.

Getting back to your original question, I don't know anybody who has done cardio the way you're talking about.  And another thing - it doesn't make sense if you stop and think about it. How can you keep being more and more progressive? That's like saying you are going to add five pounds to your bench press every week, forever. If that were possible, we would have some guys benching 3,000 pounds by now! It's just as silly with cardio. You are going to get to a point where you are running or stair climbing at an all-out sprint for 16 minutes. That's as fast as you can go, and you are only going to be able to burn so many calories in that amount of time.

And if you try to tell me that when you reach that point you're supposed to increase the resistance, that's really dumb. If the resistance on the machine is at a high level, you are no longer doing cardio; you are now resistance training!  Seriously, try riding a stationary bike fast with the resistance up high for just a few minutes. You'll have to stop, because your quads will pump up like you just did 100 reps of leg extensions. So, sorry, I still think longer cardio sessions at a more moderate pace get the job done better. If you're losing muscle, it's probably because either your protein or calories are too low.

 

            I train with my girlfriend, who weighs about 80 pounds less than me.  But get this- her arms are proportionately bigger than mine (hers are a strong point, mine suck) and the most humiliating thing is that she is almost exactly as strong as me on alternate dumbbell curls! I can't use more than 50s or 55's in good form, while she can use 45s. Considering how much bigger I am overall, I almost hate training biceps with her because I think the whole gym is laughing at me. On every other body part I do use two or even three times more weight than she does. Do you have any ideas on how I can get my biceps bigger and stronger? I haven't seen an increase in size or strength for a really long time- years, in fact. You are the God of Biceps, so please help!

            I can see why you would be upset, but you have to realize that we are all different. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. I have known guys who could bench-press 500 pounds, but couldn't even squat 405, and others who had incredibly powerful legs and weak upper bodies in comparison. Even in the same area such as arms, some people have stronger biceps than triceps or vice versa. Your biceps are obviously not a genetically strong muscle group, while your girlfriend's are. I get uncomfortable when guys come to me looking for some super-duper arm routine that will help them build biceps like mine.  The truth is, I don't do anything fancy at all for biceps.

My training has always consisted of basic exercises like barbell curls, dumbbell curls and preacher curls, for about 20 sets per workout of six to 10 reps with as heavy a weight as I can use in good form. Asking me how to build huge arms is almost like asking Shaq how to be seven feet tall. I was born with extraordinary genetics for building muscle, particularly in the arms, so hard work on the basics resulted in my arms becoming quite a bit larger than the average guy's. Just keep working hard on your biceps and don't give up on them. I have to be honest and tell you they will probably never be a strong point for you, but you should be able to eventually improve them to the point where they aren't as weak compared to everything else. And if it really bothers you that your girlfriend has bigger and stronger biceps than you do, maybe you two shouldn't train together on that day. 

 

            I hear a lot about how using belts and straps robs you of your chance to develop your trunk's stabilizing muscles and your grip. When do you think it's appropriate to use belts and straps, and when isn't it?

            My fast answer is, when I need them. I use wrist wraps whenever I am going so heavy that my grip becomes a limiting factor. Most often this happens with back work, because the back and traps are such powerful muscles. I have a pretty strong grip, but when I'm deadlifting heavy or I'm doing a few sets of heavy shrugs, my grip will always give out before the back or traps do. So, if I weren't to use straps, I wouldn't be working those muscles as hard as they're capable of. I don't know too many guys who can hold on to a pair of 150-pound dumbbells for four or five sets of shrugs. If they insisted on not using straps, they'd have to use a lot less weight, or drop the dumbbells before they got as many reps as they wanted, and their traps would be shortchanged.

So with straps, I won't use them for warm-up sets and maybe not even for the first couple of work sets of back exercises, but you can be sure I'll put them to use when I need them. It would be foolish not to. Some guys like to go without straps because it helps develop their forearms. My forearms have always been pretty beefy anyway.

Lifting belts are similar in how I employ them, though I will say they are probably the most overused training accessory. I see guys with their belts on when they are doing everything from curls to skull crushers- totally unnecessary. I put my belt on only at times when my back feels unstable.  Usually, that's during heavy squats and deadlifts, maybe for overhead pressing. You'll know when you need to put your belt on. In movements like the bench press, lat pull-downs, or cable pushdowns, there is no pressure bearing down on your spine or compressing it. You definitely would never need a belt then. Just listen to your body and it usually tells you what it requires at that time.  Unless you're dieting, like me, in which case you have to ignore your body's constant demands for pizza and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

 

  I know you used to eat sugary cereals; I don't know if you do anymore. My favorite "cheat meal" is a couple of bowls of something like Count Chocula, Cookie Crisp, Apple Jacks, Cocoa Puffs, Sugar Corn Pops, Golden Grahams- well, you get the idea. As long as I'm not trying to get ripped or anything, do you see anything wrong with me doing this maybe twice a week? Oh, yeah, I have the cereal with skim milk, if that makes a difference!

            Do I think there's anything wrong with it? Are you kidding me? I eat cereal every day in the off-season. Why not, what does it matter? As long as you aren't getting carried away and turning into Fat Bastard, I don't see a problem at all.  In fact, I always get great pumps when I train from all the sugar. I rotate the cereals because I get bored with the taste of one after a while. So, I don't really even have favorites. Froot Loops, Lucky Charms, Honey Smacks, Frosted Flakes, they are all good. Sometimes, I go to Costco and get those huge bags with 40 or 50 little boxes of different cereals- the variety pack. And you are smart drinking skim milk. Whole milk has way too much fat in it. And did I leave out the best part of sugary cereals? You always get a little prize inside!

 

             Road to the Arnold Classic

 January, 2005

Since I started my diet for the Ironman and Arnold Classic on December 1, Christmas and New Year's were just two ordinary days. One rule I have is that I don't celebrate anything when I'm dieting- no birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. All that can wait until the show is over. When I diet, everything is very regimented. I have to eat at exactly the same times every day, do my cardio and weights right on schedule, etc., for 16 weeks. It's fucking boring as hell, but that's how I get into my best shape. 

            I started off with just 30 minutes a day on the treadmill or stair climber, and gradually increased that so now, about six weeks later, I'm up to 45 minutes to an hour, twice a day. That's a lot of cardio and it drives me nuts with boredom, but it has to be done. I'm not a naturally lean person and it takes a lot of work for me to get into contest condition. I definitely have to suffer for those deep cuts, which is why I'm usually not the perkiest guy around contest time. I have heard comments come back like, "Lee is an a-hole, man," from people I met and didn't feel like having long, involved conversations with about arm training or my top picks for the next Olympia.  To them, I say, check back with me when I can eat whatever I want again and don't have to do all the cardio- I promise I'm a much nicer guy! I have even been told I have a pretty good sense of humor, though probably not wacky enough for my own sitcom.

            Recently, I have been training with a guy named Bruce at a place in Austin, Texas, called Elite Fitness. It's a pretty small place, but the equipment is fine, they keep everything clean and the people are friendly. I don't need to be at a big franchise gym to get good workouts in; all I need are weights. Bruce is a personal trainer and doesn't compete- he's too busy making real money!

            I'm about five weeks out from the Ironman as I write this. I don't get into talking about my weight or body fat percentage, because I think it's all bollocks.  All that matters is what you look like onstage. I feel good, but am I satisfied with what I see in the mirror? Of course not! I never am. I'm my own worst critic, as all top bodybuilders should be. If I thought I already looked great, there would be no motivation to eat all the bland diet food and get my ass on that stair climber every day. Saying, "Lee, you're still fucking smooth" drives me to do all the things I need to do to be properly prepared.

            Those are the only two shows I'm doing this spring. The Ironman is always great because I lived in LA for almost 10 years and I get a huge reaction from the crowd there. That may have something to do with me paying them all to cheer (now you know that was a joke). The Arnold is two weeks later and I have always loved doing that show. Arnold and Jim Lorimer do everything first-class, and I have to say it's the only show I compete in where I always feel like a professional athlete. And of course, I would love to win the 100 grand, the Hummer and the watch one of these days. Cutler is finally sitting this year's Arnold out after three consecutive wins, so that opens up the door for someone else to win at last. Chris Cormier, Dexter, Melvin, Victor and Gustavo are all very tough competitors, so I won't make any brash predictions. All I can ever do is show up looking the best I can.   

            One last thing. I do like Jennifer Garner, but I'm not running out to see "Elektra." Christ, she died in "Daredevil," now they're bringing her back? Ah, who am I kidding?  The previews on TV show her in all kinds of sexy outfits. I'll probably see it this weekend.

            Talk to you next time, when I am just about ready for the Ironman.

 

Got a question for Lee? E-mail it to him through http://www.musculardevelopment.com/

 

SIDEBAR

 

Shit Happens

2005 Arrives for Lee Priest with a Crash

By Ron Harris

 

The following is based on an exclusive interview conducted with Lee Priest describing an automobile accident that took place on January 4, 2005. Let me say that several more times for those Weider magazines who prevent me from interviewing Ronnie, Jay and the others they have under contract- exclusive, exclusive, exclusive! How does it feel to be denied access to an athlete? Now you're getting a taste of what I go through all the time. It sucks, doesn't it? OK, enough of that nonsense, let's get to Lee's story.

 

            Life is nothing if not ironic. It's like rain on your wedding day, it's a free ride when you've already paid. And if you're Lee Priest, irony is spending a weekend driving 180 miles an hour and coming out unscathed, only to be involved in a car crash on your way back home puttering along at one-fifth the speed.

            Lee was returning to Texas from Palmdale, Calif., where he had taken part in an annual drag racing event called "The Hangover Nationals" held at LA County Racing, known to racing buffs as LACR. It turns out Lee had missed out on qualifying for the semi-finals by two-thousandths of a second. Apparently, these races aren't what most of us think of as "races" in the conventional sense. I assumed the car that crossed the finish line first was the winner. I guess it's a bit more complicated. The drivers pick a time to complete the quarter mile and the winner is the one who gets closest to the time he chose.  "My reaction time was a little off," Lee said. "A perfect reaction time is 0.000 and mine was 0.038. The guy who beat me had a reaction time of 0.025 seconds."

            "Jeez, Lee, you were slower than some guy with a hangover?" I asked. "That's pretty weak."

"Well I was dieting and hungry, that's even worse."

            His flight arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth after being delayed, and his friend Bruce couldn't pick him up. A light rain was coming down from a slate-gray sky.  Lee hailed a cab and climbed in back, instinctively moving to the passenger side and snapping his seatbelt. "Until about a year ago, I never bothered with seatbelts in cabs," Priest explains. "Most people don't. Then one day, probably because of all the racing I've been doing, I started thinking, wait a minute. A lot of these guys driving cabs come from countries where the only traffic rules involve not hitting cows, and I should feel perfectly safe with them at the wheel?  I always put my seat belt on when I drive and I'm an expert driver. So, since then I started buckling up for safety." 

            As it turned out, had he not, I could have had a much more dramatic story to tell, with flying bodies, crushed bones and pavements slick with the blood of vertically-challenged pro bodybuilders with Australian accents and Superman tattoos. Oh well, I already got to do something similar with Mat Duvall a while back. Besides, I like Lee too much to want tragedy to befall him just to make for more compelling prose.

The taxicab was about to pass through an intersection where the light had just turned green. Before Lee even saw anything, his Spidey sense- oops, wrong superhero- had the hair on the back of his neck tingling. "From racing, you develop a sense- that goes beyond peripheral vision- for when a car is coming too fast from the wrong direction," Lee explained. "This guy probably didn't want to slam his brakes on with the road being wet, so he just floored it through the light as it changed to red." 

Coming at his cab from the left, the second vehicle slammed into them at a point between the left front bumper and the driver's door, sending them into a clockwise spin across the street and over to the curb. The force of the impact shoved Lee up against the door to his right, feeling like a massive steel fist had punched him in the ribs. At the time, he feared he might have broken a rib or two. 

            An ambulance and police quickly arrived on the scene. "The cops sat around eating doughnuts and filling out forms," Lee said. "And not once did they offer me a doughnut, the buggers." Meanwhile, the EMTs suggested that Lee immediately proceed to the nearest emergency room to have everything checked out. He arrived around 3 p.m. and after being x-rayed, poked and prodded ("but not probed, thank goodness," he points out), Lee walked out at about 7 p.m. with a clean bill of health and no injuries found. "Though they didn't check for brain damage," Lee reminds me. "Of course, that could have been there already, anyway." 

            So, despite any crazy Internet rumors, the accident had no effect on Lee whatsoever and he was, in fact, right back in the gym the very next day training hard for the Ironman and Arnold.  "And best of all," Lee adds, "I didn't have to pay for the fucking cab ride!"