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The rest of my body is really growing great, but my arms are lacking. For a while I was on a four-day split, but working out five days a week. I would do triceps with chest and biceps with shoulders. I did dips, cable pushdowns, reverse-grip single pressdowns, rope overhead extensions, incline skull-crushers and dumbbell extensions for triceps. For biceps, I did cable curls with an EZ bar attachment, hammer curls, seated or incline dumbbell curls, spider curls, concentration curls and preacher curls on a machine. I always picked three to four exercises and did three to four sets of six to 15 reps, depending on the week. Some weeks I did higher reps for everything, some weeks I did lower reps and more weight. Lately, I've been doing arms on their own day and I train everything only once a week. I've kept the sets and reps basically the same. I was just wondering if maybe you had a better idea, so I can stop being ashamed to wear a sleeveless shirt.

There's no reason for you to feel ashamed. The fact that your whole body, aside from your arms, has been responding well means that you're making great progress overall. You're definitely doing something right. Most people have one stubborn area that genetically, they just weren't gifted in and that they have to put special emphasis on. You need to be smarter in your approach to training so you can stimulate growth. My first recommendation is to follow the principle of prioritization, or hitting each of the two main muscle groups of the upper arms with their own workouts. By doing that, they get plenty of rest, and you're always training them fresh, instead of after a larger muscle group, when you're already tired. Try a split like this:

Day one:           Biceps

Day two:           Triceps

Day three:         Legs

Day four:          OFF

Day five:           Chest and shoulders

Day six:                        Back

Day seven:       OFF

This will allow you to concentrate all your energy and effort on the arms and give them the focus they need to catch up with the rest of your body. Next, you mentioned a lot of exercises, probably too many. Just pick a few basic exercises and work very hard on those, rather than try to do so many different movements at one workout. For triceps, skull-crushers should be the first exercise. Keep your upper arms at 90° to the ground with your elbows pointing straight up and lower the bar to just above your forehead. Feel the stretch, then extend back up and be sure you feel your triceps contracting. The other triceps exercise you should devote yourself to is the behind-the-head extension using both hands and one heavy dumbbell. Keep your elbows tucked in close to your head and use a spotter to help you get the dumbbell into position and take it away when you finish the set, if at all possible. For the biceps, you should start with standing barbell curls using an Olympic bar, then follow that up with either alternate dumbbell curls or preacher curls. Do these exercises for four sets each of eight to 12 reps, as heavy as possible in good form after warming up. Once you've done these basic free-weight exercises, you can pick two machine or cable exercises for the biceps or triceps and do three sets of those. Also, stretch the triceps and the biceps between sets. This will improve the blood flow and let more waste products out and nutrients in. If you do this, you'll see results. You may not have 21" arms like a pro, but as long as they're bigger than they were before, you've succeeded and should take pride in that.


I was watching Ronnie's DVD "The Cost of Redemption" a while back (don't worry, I have your "Common Sense" DVD too, and I love it!), and I was shocked at how many pills the man takes. He literally had what looked like a fishing tackle box with about 40 compartments, and he took something from each one! It just seems crazy to have to take so many vitamins and stuff with every meal. It's almost like another meal in itself! Do you think it's necessary to take so many different supplements, and do you take 20, 30 or more pills with every meal?

I remember watching that and thinking, Dios mio! the guy is putting away a whole GNC right there! Ronnie's certainly covering all the bases and then some. I doubt he really needs to be taking all those pills, but since he's trying to hold onto his title as the best bodybuilder in the world, he doesn't take any chances that he's deficient in any vitamin, mineral or other substance he feels might help him. You also need to keep in mind that Ronnie is a middle-aged guy, and his body needs more supplemental support than it did when he was a teenager or in his 20s. If you're young and healthy, you probably only need to take a good multivitamin and mineral tablet to meet your requirements. Most people don't have the money to buy as many different vitamins and supplements as Ronnie, nor do they have the time to take 30 or 40 pills and tablets after every meal. That's like another meal right there! Also, your stomach may not be able to handle all those different things at once without getting bad cramps and indigestion. I know that happens to me if I take a lot of products at once. So, unless you're older and have the time and money, you don't need to have a whole tackle box full of vitamins. Spend your money on food and things like creatine and whey protein instead.


I'm a 19-year-old guy from India and have narrow shoulders. Please tell me some exercises that can broaden them. Also, does bone structure change at the age of 19 or after puberty?

I believe anything is possible when you apply the right exercises and techniques. You need to have wider shoulders. At 19 years old, you should definitely be able to do that with a couple of years of training the right way. For your shoulders, concentrate on lateral raises and seated dumbbell presses. On chest day, do dumbbell pullovers across a bench, taking deep breaths as you lower the dumbbell behind your head, to expand your rib cage. Do wide-grip chins for your back and also stretch your back by hanging in the bottom position of that exercise for as long as you can. Also do barbell rows for back with a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width grip. All of these things will contribute to a wider upper torso. As long as you eat plenty of good food every two to three hours and respect the process of progressive resistance by adding either a little bit more weight or doing another rep or two more than last time, you'll see results. Your clavicles are bones and you won't be able to stretch them to make them any wider, but by doing precise exercises and stretches, you can create an illusion over time that they are.


I just read about how your fellow MD and MuscleTech athlete Chris Cormier hurt his back so badly on a vertical leg press machine that he couldn't walk for two weeks. In other places I've heard how great an exercise it is, especially from old-school bodybuilders like Arnold and Franco Columbu. I think even Lee Haney and Rich Gaspari used to do a lot of vertical leg pressing. Here's the situation at my gym. The owner really values my opinion when it comes to selecting new equipment. He wants a new leg press. We already have two different 45° leg presses, a horizontal leg press, a squat machine and a hack squat. I was thinking that maybe a vertical leg press would be a nice piece, too. It would definitely give some more variety for me and the other members on leg day. But first, I wanted to know what you thought about it. Have you used the vertical leg press? Do you like it? Do you think it's safe?

I was very sad when I heard about what happened to my good friend Chris. He's one of the best pro bodybuilders of the last 12 years, and he's been training hard for over 20 years. I have so much respect for what he's accomplished in the sport and how long he's been at this. I'm not sure that we can blame the vertical leg press for what happened, as Chris has had serious back problems on and off for many years. Sometimes, as careful as you try to be, you can do one little thing wrong and get injured. I love doing leg presses from various angles. I always start with either squats or front squats and then move on to some type of leg press to hit the legs another way (with the back supported). It's very important with any leg press you make sure your butt stays down and in contact with the seat at all times. Hold onto the handles tightly so you stay securely in place. If you bring your knees too close in toward your chest and your butt comes up off the pad, you could incur horrible damage to your spine, especially if you're using a lot of weight and lowering the weight too fast (some guys bounce the reps out of the bottom to get a few more reps- very bad idea). But the leg press is extremely valuable because it lets you target different areas of the lower body by changing your foot position on the platform. Put your feet lower and closer together, and you'll get mostly quads. Set your feet higher and wider, and now your hamstrings and glutes are working harder. As for the vertical leg press, it's a nice machine, but you have to be a little more careful since the weight is directly over you. Make sure your reps are slow and controlled and that you never take the weight on or off the racks without being securely in position. You also need to be a bit more careful about keeping your butt down than you would on an angled leg press. I've used the vertical leg press many times in the past and liked it, so I would say it would probably be a good addition to your gym.


I'm going crazy and it's all because of the scale. I've been trying to gain weight for the past year and have done pretty well. I was about 200 pounds then, and I'm 215 now. Well, that's not exactly true. I seem to weigh something different every time I go to the gym! I weigh myself in gym clothes, so I know that sometimes I might have more clothes on than others. For instance, I wear boots on leg day instead of the usual Nike Shox sneakers, and sometimes I wear long pants instead of shorts. It also seems to matter if I've eaten a lot that day, gone to the bathroom a lot and consumed a lot of water. I seem to always weigh more in the evening, too- by about 4 pounds. I swear to you, one morning I weighed 210 pounds, and then two nights later I was 217! I know I couldn't have gained 7 pounds in two days. How can I figure out what I really weigh, and how can I stop letting this drive me insane?

We're all about four or five pounds lighter in the morning than we are in the evening. What you're doing is comparing morning and evening weights and not taking that fact into account. You should also weigh yourself in just your underwear, because one day you might have five pounds of clothing and footwear at the gym and less than a pound another day. Those two discrepancies right there could see you weighing 10 pounds heavier just 12 hours apart in the same day. But you need to stop worrying so much about bodyweight. Guys who do this often get fat because they're obsessed with gaining weight and fail to see that what they're gaining isn't muscle. Bodybuilding is an illusion. Many times a bodybuilder can add size and show up with better condition than at his last contest and look much bigger than before, even though his weight on the scale might be exactly the same or even lighter! Weight also varies depending on how much food is in your stomach and how much water you drink, so it's not as accurate an indication of anything as you might imagine. Just focus on training hard and eating well. If you have to weigh yourself to chart your progress, do it once a month, first thing in the morning before you've eaten and without clothes and shoes.


MD Exclusive!

Road to the Olympia

Training & Lifestyle Journal- August, 2006


Halfway Through my Olympia Prep

I'm now seven weeks into my prep for the Olympia, with seven weeks to go. I did a 14-week diet this time so I would be ready early. Dieting more gradually is less stressful and helps me stay more relaxed. I'm actually enjoying the process a lot this time. I'm right on schedule for where I want to be. This weekend I'm even taking my family to Disneyland, and we might go to Universal Studios as well. I'm taking all my food with me, of course. Because I started my prep so early, I can do this and not worry that I'm falling behind in my condition. I actually don't plan on thinking about the show all weekend. I'm just going to enjoy being with my wife and children and give them my full attention.

I've been doing 45 minutes of cardio every morning on an empty stomach. I use the stepper, which is harder than the bike or treadmill. I do my cardio and abs at 6:30 a.m., and then I'm starving! I feel energized from the cardio and ready to take on my day. With my appetite up, I eat more carbs than usual, but my body is still getting into great shape. I should definitely be a lot fuller than what you saw at the Arnold, or even in San Francisco, where I'd managed to fill back out.


A Training Partner at Last

For nearly all my bodybuilding career, I've trained on my own, and that's how I liked it. I never needed anyone screaming in my ear to motivate me and never used more weight than I could handle. But for the past three months, I've been training with top amateur light heavyweight Manny Torres here in Las Vegas. It really happened by accident. We trained at the same days and times and started talking. From there we began working out together, and it's been fantastic. Manny pushes me to go past my limits, and he's also there to spot me, so I'm totally confident using very heavy weights that I probably wouldn't be using on my own. We train five days a week at noon and again at around 5 or 6 p.m. Some people have asked me why I'm training with an amateur. That's easy to explain. Amateurs are hungry and still have a burning passion to be the best, whereas a lot of pros have lost the fire. I still have the fire, and I get criticized a lot for my passion to be the very best bodybuilder in the world. Like I always say though, if you don't have passion, why are you a pro bodybuilder? Are you going to be excited about being the 10th or 15th best in the world? I also do this to provide for my family, so I take my workouts and my diet very seriously. This is no joke when the future of my family is at stake. You know what I mean?


Seven Weeks to Go, I Can't Wait for the O

I'm looking better at seven weeks out than I ever have, so I know this will be my best Mr. Olympia ever. I made mistakes earlier in the season and I learned from them. The contest is right here in my new home of Las Vegas, so all my friends and family will be there. I won't let them or my fans down, and most of all I won't let myself down. I've been in third place two years in a row, so the only place to go from there is up.


Got a question for Gustavo? E-mail it to him through the "Ask MD" section of

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