Thursday, October 29, 2009
Matt Weik, writer for bodybuilding.com, recently posted an interview with me where I address my career both past and present and answer questions about our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy."
I enjoyed doing the interview as I was able to touch on some topics that people often as me about such as why I chose to retire from competition. I also share my thoughts on why drug free bodybuilders can be their own worst enemies.....
Here's that snippet from the interview:
[ MW ] Is there anything you would like to add to this interview that we didn't cover that you feel the readers would like to know?
[ JW ] First I would like to say thank you for doing this interview and helping to bring some attention to "I Want to Look Like That Guy". I am very proud of this documentary and its valuable messages. People are finding it motivational as well as very informative and entertaining.
I've taken a lot of flack over the years from people doubting whether or not I am drug free. People are entitled to their opinions and that is fine. I understand why people would be skeptical because the results I've achieved are above what many conceive to be possible without drugs.
My question to those people is have they ever stopped and thought that maybe, just maybe the great success I achieved has something to do with the training approach I've used or the fact that I meticulously executed this smart plan for years on end?
This documentary shows you right in front of your eyes the power of what a smart approach combined with hard work over an extended period of time can do. Look at what Stuart did in 6 months. Now think about applying those principles for years on end and maybe it suddenly isn't so unthinkable that outstanding results can be achieved without drugs.
I wish natural bodybuilders would spend less time doubting and more time learning how to maximize their potential from those who've achieved great success without drugs.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
In the December issue of FLEX Magazine there is a great review of our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy". Here's the entire review:
by Shawn Perine, Senior writer
"In this fascinating documentary, filmmaker Stuart MacDonald turns the cameras on himself as he undergoes a grueling transformation from a 42-year-old 200-plus pounder (nearly 30% of it adipose) to a 154-pound competitive bodybuilder, with the help of IFBB pro Jeff Willet and Dr. Adam Coughlin.
MacDonald undergoes extreme duress, both mental and physical, as he wavers between reaching his goal and calling the whole thing off. In the end his saga is unexpectedly gripping and, although not exactly revelatory to the bodybuilding inveterate, it does provide ample confirmation that living the life of a bodybuilder isn't quite the simple task that the uninitiated might believe."
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I just viewed the DVD "I Want to Look Like That Guy" and it was awesome!!! I do have one question.... I noticed that on the diet schedule that was on the DVD, Stuart's calories went way down there at the end....
Question is did he stay on the same 5 day Max-OT training and cardio during that time? I ask because I have been warned that if I take my caloreis to low and continue to work out at a high level than it will basically backfire and be counterproductive.
Thanks for the great feedback! Glad you enjoyed the film.
Not only did Stuart stay on the 5 day Max-OT schedule throughout, he actually increased cardio frequency as the show got closer and as calories got more restricted. To reach single digit body fat levels it is imperative to create such a caloric deficit.
The process of gradual caloric reductions and increased cardio frequency needs to take place over a period of several months to be most effective at losing fat while continuing to build and maintain muscle. If there is a dramatic caloric drop and a dramatic increase in cardio frequency all at once, indeed that can be counterproductive to building and maintaining muscle.
Other keys to the process that Stuart followed were smart nutrient ratios/nutrient timing, continuing to train heavy with Max-OT principles and always keeping cardio sessions short (16-20 minutes) and intense. All of these are important principles for achieving maximum fat burning while continuing to build and maintain hard earned muscle throughout the process.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Don't try to rely on some last minute technique like carb loading to make you look great onstage. If you are not already in great shape by the day of the contest there are no last minute tricks you can do to make you shredded.
Your performance is determined by your actions in the months and months leading up to the contest and how intelligent and consistent you are with your daily execution.
First time competitors shouldn't worry about the scale and shouldn't worry about any fancy "tricks" like they may read from the pros in the magazines. Instead, the focus should be on getting as lean as possible while still building and maintaining your hard earned muscle. This is accomplished by continual execution of a smart plan for many months leading up to your contest.
I touch on these points and other FAQ about contest preparation in my new DVD "Posing to Win."
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Another thought that came to mind is it was 9 years ago almost to the day when I officially started my job at AST Sports Science HQ in Golden, CO. Hard to believe it is possible that it could have been 9 years ago already.
(Photo: In my office at AST Sports Science)
For those of you who don't know the story, here's the condensed version. I moved form Michigan to Colorado in August of the year 2000 to work as a Technical Specialist for AST Sports Science. I lived in Colorado and worked directly for AST for about 4 years before returning back to Michigan to open my Powerhouse Gym.
The four years I spent in Colorado were some of the best and most challenging years of my life. It was also one of the single greatest educational experiences as well, not only from a bodybuilding/fitness standpoint but also on a personal level. That was the first time living completely on my own far away from any family or friends. I really didn't know anyone when I moved to Colorado. I had only met Paul Delia (CEO AST Sports Science) a couple times and I had met my future co-workers on a weeks visit to Colorado about 6 months prior to moving. It was a giant leap for me but a leap I had to take as I recognized it was an opportunity of a life time and a chance to help make my dreams of becoming an IFBB Pro and one of the worlds greatest drug free bodybuilders a reality.
Paul was incredible during those years as a mentor, boss and friend. I am forever thankful of the opportunity he gave me. Truth is barely a day goes by where I don't think about something he had told me regarding business, bodybuilding or life in general.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I often get asked which Max-OT routine is the best, meaning is there a best way to arrange exercises/body parts. Truth is there is no one Max-OT arrangement that is better than another. The way the workout is arranged is not as important as whether or not all the Max-OT principles are being followed such as set/rep volume, exercise selection and workout frequency.
You'll find many examples of Max-OT arrangements on the AST Sports Science web site as well as multiple examples in my Training Journal and you will have success with any of those because the core Max-OT principles are present in all of them.
The one thing I would suggest if you are making your own arrangement is not placing two major body parts together on the same day such as Chest and Back. I also prefer keeping legs to a day by themselves. Reason being, it is very hard to maintain the level of intensity needed for maximum results throughout your workout if you have two major body parts following one another on the same day.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy" got its first national press in the October 2009 issue of IronMan Magazine.
Check out Lonnie Teper's News and Views section (pg. 212) to see the announcement.
Hopefully this is just the first to come!
Saturday, August 22, 2009
While I was channel surfing last night I caught a show on E! - "True Hollywood Story - Female Bodybuilders." Like a car wreck, I had to peak on my way by.
Part of the story was following an amateur figure (maybe it was fitness, I can't remember which for sure) competitor who was trying to win her pro card at a national NPC event. What jumped out at me was when she was talking about her training regimen she said she did 3, 45 minute cardio sessions a day! Poor girl had fallen prey to the pundits of long duration cardio like so many guys and girls do when they are preparing for contests.
Long duration cardio, particularly when you are on a reduced calorie diet, is a great way to waste away hard earned muscle. Women have to be even more careful as their propensity to build and maintain muscle is challenged by their gender right out of the gate.
Truth is she would have achieved far greater results with a fraction of the time. This doesn't mean she would have had to work any less hard it just means she would have worked smarter with a more result producing plan. Hard work is great but if channeled in the wrong direction can actually impede progress. I know first hand because I used to do long duration cardio too and never achieved the kind of conditioning I did once I implemented Max-OT style cardio.
Stuart MacDonald's (Pictured above) amazing transformation documented in "I Want to Look Like That Guy" was achieved in part by his consistent short duration, high intensity cardio. There was no long duration cardio for Stu and he was able to go from over 30% body fat to less than 6% bodyf at in a 6 month period. I guarntee that if Stuart would have done hours and hours of cardio he would not have achieved the same dramatic results. He may have lost a similar amount of total weight but his body composition would not have been as great because he would have been sacrificing muscle along the way.
Remember - Short duration, high intensity cardio is the way to go for competitors and anyone looking to really improve body composition. It will have a greater elevation effect on your metabolism and less of any negative effects on the muscle building process.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
One of my favorite features in my latest DVD release "Posing to Win" is the bonus "lost" footage we included.
When going through tapes we stumbled across footage that I didn't think we had. It is a segment of me practicing mandatory poses just 2 weeks before the 2003 NPC USA. It was filmed by my friend and fellow IFBB Pro Derik Farnsworth in San Diego, CA. In fact, we left it uncut so you can actually hear Derik calling out the poses and counting to make sure I held them long enough. I remember we filmed it right after a Max-OT cardio session. I am excited that we are able to share this rare footage because I thought it was gone forever.
Another little fun fact is the photos featured on the front and back cover of this DVD were taken during that same trip to California on Venice Beach.
Some other neat stuff apart from the general posing instructions you'll see on "Posing to Win" is the Q&A session where I address some FAQ's about posing/presentation and overall preparation.
By the way, the offer is still available for the next few copies sold to get an autographed front cover!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Too many drug free competitors, especially first timers, focus too much on weight loss and abandon the real goal of bodybuilding which is to build muscle - hence the name "BodyBUILDING"!
Your goal should be to build and maintain as much muscle as possible while getting as lean as possible. This is different than simply trying to drop weight.
If you are a novice competitor you should not be worrying about the scale during most of your preparation. Your goal should be to look your best by building and maintaining every hard earned ounce of muscle possible while targeting maximum fat burning. When you zero in on that look....whatever you weigh you weigh. Unless you have a few contests under your belt you really have no idea where the needle on the scale will settle at that point.
Stuart MacDonald in "I Want to Look Like That Guy" illustrates this process perfectly. When I started working with him to get him ready for the NPC Natural Michigan he was over 200 lbs and over 30% body fat. I didn't look at him and project the weight class he needed to be in. I did not devise a precontest plan that was focused on weight loss. I devised a plan that focused on building muscle and losing fat to achieve a "bodybuilding lean" physique onstage.
The only time we concerned ourselves with the scale was the last couple weeks before the contest. At that point if you are close to the cut off of a weight class then it makes sense to try and be at the top end of a weight class rather than the bottom. In Stu's case he was getting very close to the light weight cut off so we worked to get him into that class. (We ultimately succeeded but you have to see the documentary to find out just how close we came to missing! Talk about some unplanned drama!)
So the tip of the day is devise your pre-contest plan to build muscle and lose body fat rather then simply focusing on weight loss. If you follow a smart and proven plan you will not have to worry about losing precious muscle and can shift your emphasis to maximum fat burning. If you commit many of the common mistakes that a lot of natural bodybuilders do and focus simply on losing weight to make a weight class then there is no doubt you'll be setting yourself up to sacrifice muscle and not be all that you could come the day of the show.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I was recently asked what were the biggest strategies that allowed for my dramatic increase in placing from 2002 to 2003? I would not say it was any different strategy but rather an improvement of my mindset and greater execution of the plan for a longer period of time. Let me explain.....
In February of 2002 around the Arnold Classic time there was talk about the NPC making a rule change that would effect former class champions of the NPC Team Universe. I don't even remember all the details at this point but the summary was that the same people were finishing at the top of their respective weight classes year after year and were not going to be allowed to compete for the weight class but would be allowed to compete for the overall. That being the case myself along with some of the other past champions decided to forgo the Team Universe that year and enter the NPC USA instead. Long story short, that is why I didn't participate in the 2002 Team Universe. I ended up placing 15 in the light heavy weight division of the NPC USA. (As a side note, as the show got closer in 2002 the NPC changed their minds and never followed through with that rule change for the Team Universe. By the time I found out my mind was already fixated on doing only the USA that year so I opted not to change my plans.)
I was disappointed with my 15th place finish at the USA but I also understood this was another level up from the Team Universe. The NPC USA is not drug tested and the NPC Team Universe is. Now some people will roll their eyes and say that the drug testing is a farce at the Team Universe and I beg to differ. In my three victories at the Team Universe I was polygraphed and urinalysis tested on each as were the other champions. Could someone try and beat that test? Of course they could just like they could try and beat a drug test for any event. Are there guys and girls who are in the Team Universe that are taking drugs? Probably so because there will always be some people who will cheat and try and beat the system no matter what but it is not fair to make a blanket statement that it is a farce and assume everyone is dishonest. The drug tests at the Team Universe are very real but this is a whole other topic.......so back to my story.
Top to bottom in each weight class there is no mistaking that the USA is a much harder contest than the Team Universe. Being on that stage against the best and not placing well really inspired me to prove to the world and to myself that I could compete at that level while being completely drug free. I never once used the excuse that my poor placing was because I was not taking drugs and everyone else was. That was not my style. I enetered the USA full well knowing what I was up against so I took my placing like a man and went back to the drawing board as I always did after a contest. I took a day or two to reflect on the experience and the moment I arrived back at AST HQ in Golden, CO I was on a mission to make the top 5 at the 2003 USA and to win the overall at the Team Universe.
Those were two lofty goals and I owned them both from day one. I wrote both proclamations on note cards and placed them in strategic spots so I had to read them multiple times a day...."I am a top 5 USA finisher"...."I am the Overall Team Universe Champion"... Those positive affirmations would drive and direct that entire year for me.
I took advantage of each day of that year unlike any other year prior. I always worked hard for every contest throughout the years but this year was special for me. In 2003 I asked more of myself daily and I delivered.
I followed the same formula of Max-OT training, Max-OT cardio, the same nutritional principles that I did the year before so there was nothing really different in strategy. Like I said, I just did a better job of performing at a higher level for a longer period of time. It was my mantra to take advantage of every day and make decisions on a daily if not hourly basis that would propel me closer to those two goals written with blue sharpie on white note cards that stared me in the face almost every where I looked.
As most of you know I made those two affirmations a reality. I placed 4th at the 2003 USA and I won the overall and IFBB Pro Card at the 2003 Team Universe.
An interesting tid bit about my positive affirmation note cards....My mother and my aunt would come to visit me over Mother's Day each year that I lived in Colorado. My mom later admitted to me that seeing those note cards around my apartment (during her stay in 2003) with those bold proclamations actually made her nervous to look at. She was worried I would take it very hard if I fell short of those goals. Fortunately, we'll never have to know because 2003 was my best year by a mile and a very happy ending to my competitive career.
Don't underestimate the power of writing down positive affirmations. It is one thing to think you would like to achieve "this" or "that" and another to take complete ownership of those goals by actually writing them down as if they are a statement of fact.
Friday, August 14, 2009
I am happy to announce that my new DVD "Posing to Win" is now available!
Posing to Win gives you a unique inside look at an actual teaching session between amateur bodybuilder Stuart MacDonald and me as he prepares for the NPC Natural Michigan Championship.
You'll listen in as I share my knowledge gained over a 12 year competitive career and explain techniques I used to become one of the greatest drug free bodybuilders in the world.
The DVD is packed with information including a Q&A section where I address many frequently asked questions about posing and presentation plus you get special bonus commentary as you watch actual contest footage of Stuart onstage executing what he learned.
Posing and overall presentation can be the difference between first and second place so don't leave this important aspect of competing to chance. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned competitor Posing to Win will give you the fundamentals of posing and presentation needed for the winning edge.
*Never before seen footage of me practicing posing just weeks before my 2003 overall victory at the NPC Team Universe where I earned my IFBB Pro Card.
*View national judges score sheet from my unanimous 2003 NPC Team Universe Class victory.
The first 50 copies sold will receive an autographed front cover!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
When getting ready for a contest and focusing on maximum fat burning don't forget to keep a strong muscle building component to your plan. Too many drug free bodybuilders fail to keep some important things in place when dieting for a show and it causes them to lose too much hard earned muscle.
1. Continue to train heavy with the Max-OT principles. Do not switch to high rep training in an attempt to "bring out the separation." Heavy weights will continue to create a stimulus for muscle growth.
2. Keep cardio short and intense - Max-OT style. 16-20 minutes maximum at high intensity. Do not do long duration cardio and don't do any cardio on an empty stomach. That is a great recipe for muscle wasting.
3. Maintain smart nutrient timing and nutrient ratios. This means do not simply cut out carbs. You need carbohydrates, you just need to select and time them intelligently.
Keeping these three basic points in mind will help set you up to build muscle throughout your pre-contest preparation.
Monday, August 10, 2009
It is true when using the Max-OT principles you are striving for a continual progression of overload. That means once you complete 6 "good" reps with any given movement it is time to increase your weights by the smallest increment available. The key phrase in that last sentence is "good reps."
What do I mean by 6 good reps? That means you are in control of the weight for all 6 reps and require no assistance from a spotter to complete the set. If you are sloppy or really struggle to get 6 reps it is not a good idea to move up in weight just yet.
If you get too ahead of yourself with weight selection you will begin to sacrifice too much form and control. This will lead to more potential for injury and a greater likelihood of plateauing with your weights.
When you are training with the Max-OT principles you want to use the best balance of loose form and maximal weight, being careful not to expense one for the other. Remember that loose form doesn't mean sloppy or out of control it simply means allowing your body to move naturally through the exercise rather than being too strict or rigid. You can get a great visual example of exactly what I mean by loose form while under control in my training DVDs.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
To achieve the greatest fat loss results and minimize any potential negative muscle building effects from cardio remember to keep it short and intense.
Max-OT style cardio is the way to go. I keep the duration at 16 minutes of high intensity, making sure I am huffing and puffing throughout each session. You have to remain out of your comfort zone throughout each session in order to get the full benefits. If you treat cardio like a Sunday stroll then you can forget about being shredded.
Establishing a distance goal will help make sure your intensity is where it needs to be. Let's say you travel 4.2 miles in 16 minutes on a recumbent bike then the next session you need to try and beat 4.2 miles with all settings being the same. Always striving to better your distance will help drive you during each session and make sure your intensity is where it needs to be for the ultimate metabolic elevation.
Long duration cardio is much less effective at overall metabolic elevation and will have much more of a negative impact on the muscle building process. Trust me, I know from experience.
I used to follow the same poor advice delivered by most bodybuilding gurus. I did long duration cardio and I did it on an empty stomach too! Guess what, I never came close to achieving the hardness that I wanted come the day of the show. My level of conditioning and muscularity improved dramatically when I introduced Max-OT style cardio. I achieved the condition of my life (condition that enabled me to place 4th at the USA and win the overall at the Team Universe - 100% drug free) and never went over 20 minutes on any session of cardio and never ever did any of it on an empty stomach.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
If you do nothing else all day from a supplement or nutritional standpoint make sure you at least follow your workouts with a whey isolate and carbohydrate drink mix. (My favorite mix is AST Sports Science VP2 Whey Isolate, Micronized Creatine, GL3 L-Glutamine and a liquid carbohydrate like DGC.)
The post workout time period is the most important time of the day to supply vital muscle building nutrients to your system. Your body is in a state created by your intense workout where nutrient uptake capabilities are at there greatest. It is well documented that a post workout drink with VP2 Whey Isolate and a carbohydrate mix will "flip the anabolic switch" and accelerate muscle recovery.
Make sure not to skimp on your protein choice either. To ensure you get a quality protein it is worth the extra investment. Cheap/lower quality protein supplements simply will not give you the best results. After busting your butt in the gym why settle for a cheap/low quality protein? There is no question in my mind that VP2 Whey Isolate is the best one out there and has been the corner stone of my nutrition for the past 11 years.
To help support this point I have a great example. In our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy" there are two different phases of Stuart's transformation. In the first phase we simply focus on Max-OT and Max-OT cardio with not much attention to nutrition. The idea was to get Stu acclimated to the training methods to encourage some initial strength and muscle gains before we really hammered the diet. The only real nutritional practice I had him implement was making sure he bracketed his workouts (before and after) with VP2 Whey Isolate/Micronized Creatine/GL3 L-Glutamine and DGC.
The simple combination of Max-OT training, Max-OT cardio and bracketing his workouts enabled him to show an increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in body fat over a period of about 18 weeks. I don't have the exact numbers in front of me but his progress is detailed in the film by carefully administered bod pod measurements.
Granted, Stu's physical transformation was no where near what it ended up like after phase 2 of the film where we added strict attention to diet for 6 months, however, it does show that smart training with the Max-OT principles and this simple supplementation strategy can help you improve your body even if you don't pay much attention to anything else.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
A lot of times I think drug free bodybuilders are "missing the dollars to pick up the pennies". (Paul Delia, creator of Max-OT, told me that saying years ago and I loved it so I've used it ever since!) Or in other words, they over analyze things when it comes to their workouts and thus waste a lot of mental energy and many times even impede results by implementing less efficient methods or not fully executing all the Max-OT principles.
The actual muscle building process is pretty simple and can always be traced back to the elementary pattern of stimulus and response. The muscle is stimulated to grow by heavy overload and the degree of response is then dictated by nutritional support and rest (recovery). When this cycle of stimulus and response happens over and over for months on end the muscle building magic happens but in order for the magic to happen you need to do a couple things.
One: Focus on heavy basic lifts (Max-OT style). Strive for continual overload by working to better your numbers each workout. This pattern of continual overload done over time will be the best catalyst for muscle growth.
Two: Be meticulous with nutrition, particularly in the 3 hour post workout time period. The more consistent you are with your nutrition day in and day out, the better your results will be. Great workouts with poor nutrition will equal mediocre results at best.
Don't be too analytical and over-complicate things. Keep the workouts simple. Basic lifts, heavy weight and hard work with the Max-OT principles will set you up for the best drug free gains. The rest will come down to nutrition and how good your habits are when you leave the gym.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
While going through some photos to include in the posing DVD we are producing I came across this picture taken at the 1991 NPC Novice Michigan Championships (Redford Theatre). It was my first bodybuilding contest and I won the 18 and under division as well as the overall teen title. I was 17 years old and had been training serious for about 1 year.
A little history about the start of my bodybuilding career...
My brother Joe encouraged me to start weight lifting and he was my first training partner when I was 15. He had just moved back home to start a new job after being away for several years in college and graduate school. He and I went to the gym for one spring and summer. I absolutely loved it! Then my school started (fall of 1989 - sophomore year in high school). I remember I stopped working out and was busy with school activities including basketball. That's right, I was a basketball player prior to fully starting my bodybuilding odyssey.
The spring of 1990 after basketball season concluded is what I consider to be my true uninterrupted bodybuilding start. This time once I began I would never stop again.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
A lot of drug free bodybuilders worry about timing their condition and peaking on the day of a show. They are often concerned about losing too much muscle and as a result they end up smooth and shy of great contest shape the day of the show. They are hoping that some last minute carb loading or sodium manipulation trick is going to make them appear shredded and rock hard. Then when they look smooth onstage you often hear them say they missed their peak or their carbs spilled over when the reality is they simply weren't lean enough to begin with.
Don't worry about losing muscle, don't worry about peaking too soon and don't waste your time studying what manipulation trick you are going to use the last couple days before your show. Instead be meticulous with your diet for 6 months prior to the contest. Hammer post workout nutrient timing, be focused on heavy Max-OT style training and work your butt off with short and intense Max-OT style cardio. (You won't have to worry about losing muscle when you follow these proven training methods and nutritional practices.)
You can not be too lean for a show and it is better to be "ready" earlier than later. For example, if you look great 3 weeks before the show you are only going to look better come the day of the contest if you keep executing and driving to get leaner. That being said, take advantage of every day you have during your pre-contest preparation with great execution morning to night.
If you are very very lean come the day of the show then some slight manipulation of sodium/potassium, water and carbohydrates may enhance your appearance onstage but remember if you are not super lean it won't matter anyway. If you are counting on some trick to make you appear razor sharp then you are barking up the wrong tree.
Monday, July 20, 2009
I recently had another question posed about Max-OT verses other higher volume methods. This person is confused and wanted some assurance from me on the benefits of Max-OT. I thought I would share parts of the question and my answer as it is fairly common one and you may find it helpful.
Q: "....I think it's because I don't see anyone else train this way (Max-OT) but they all look really good so mentally I'm tempted to deviate. Another reason is that I was listening to natural bodybuilding radio show and there was a guest a on there who's a natural pro. He was talking about how high volume is the only thing that got his legs to grow....He also said he doesn't believe in over training but undereating and undertraining. I'm confused now cause I don't know what to believe..."
A: I couldn't disagree more with the statement that there is no such thing as over training. I think that is one of the biggest mistakes most natural bodybuilders make as well as the average person who is trying to change their body. They do too much. Too many sets, too many reps.
Over eating is a big mistake too. Too many calories, even if they are "good" calories will lead to fat gain and gaining fat has no positive effect on gaining muscle.
I believe Max-OT style training is the most effective method based on my own 20 year study with myself as the primary test subject as well as countless others I've instructed both directly and indirectly. Not just bodybuilders either. Take a look at what Stu achieved in our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy". His outstanding results were achieved by using the Max-OT principles of weights and cardio plus very smart nutritional practices. The same exact methods I followed over the last several years.
I've always said you can train other ways and achieve results. I trained more "traditional" by bodybuilding standards when I was a teen and through my early 20's and I did very well. However, the most productive years of my 12 year competitive career by far were after I adopted the Max-OT principles. I went from being a very good bodybuilder to becoming an outstanding bodybuilder that was good enough to place 4th in the light hvy division of the NPC USA and earn an IFBB Pro Card as a completely drug free competitor. Not many can make that claim.
In the end it is not my job to convince anyone. My job is to provide the information I feel will help people most. I have strong opinions based on 20 years of experience and my climb to the IFBB Pro ranks as a life time natural.
Follow what makes most sense to you. What ever you choose, you need to believe what you are following and not question so you can give it 100% every day.
Friday, July 17, 2009
The steroid free bodybuilder needs to avoid the more is better mentality when it comes to set and rep volume as well as workout frequency. Over training is one of muscle buildings biggest enemies.
I see it all the time. The guy who wants bigger biceps going from exercise to exercise, rep after rep, set after set to exhaustion. The total workout time for that one body part is more than double one of my workouts for 2 body parts! This marathon approach is muscle building suicide.
One must remember when building muscle you need to stimulate growth by training a body part with heavy weights and basic lifts, Max-OT style. Then, as I like to say, the magic happens when you leave the gym and the muscle is allowed to recover and respond to the stimulus you created in the gym with all your hard work. Recovery is then maximized with proper nutrition and supplementation along with adequate rest between muscle specific workouts.
If you are drug free and going overboard with frequency you will not maximize your muscle building potential.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Even when you are striving for maximum hardness and muscle separation it is important to keep the weight training heavy and basic.
Don't fall prey to the notion that high rep training will some how etch in muscle detail or my favorite, "high reps will bring out striations." Neither of these is accurate.
Heavy basic lifts done Max-OT style will set things up so you continue to build or at minimum maintain muscle while smart and strict dieting along with intense cardio will melt away body fat and reveal the separation you desire.
Take hamstrings for example. Many times you see people doing all these isolation leg curl movements with high reps in the hopes they are going to achieve greater separation and detail. Early in my career I did the same thing. I always had a problem getting my legs to look hard and separated. I did countless leg extensions, leg curls, different glute exercises and still my legs never looked as separated as I had hoped. I achieved the greatest separation and development in my hamstrings towards the end of my career with stiff leg deadlifts as the only direct hamstring exercise that I did and I never went above 6 reps. It was the diet and cardio performed intelligently over a long period of time that produced the extreme hardness and separation.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Throughout the years I have received many of the same questions or variations of the same question over and over. One that pops up now and then involves people asking me what I think of "this" training method or "that" training method compared to Max-OT and do I really think Max-OT is the best one out there.
They say there is no such thing as a dumb question but I have to scratch my head every time I receive this one. If I thought there was a better training method wouldn't I have been using a different one than Max-OT all these years? That seems pretty elementary to me.
Sometimes its almost as if people are trying to debate or convince me there is a better way. Well, there are many training methods out there and each individual has the right to select and follow whatever they wish. I will also say you can train many different ways and achieve a degree of results. I do, however, believe Max-OT is the best way to train for maximum results. I believe this from my own personal success as well as the countless others I've instructed who've also achieved great success, male and female. (AST Sports Science provides the Max-OT online course for free)
My job is not to argue the merits of Max-OT. My job is to provide the most honest information I can that I believe will help you the most. When it comes to training I believe Max-OT is the best way to go and you are not going to get a different answer out of me no matter how many times or different ways you ask me the question.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I often get questions about what my training and diet is like now that I have retired from competing. The most common is probably if I still train using the Max-OT principles. The answer is yes.
My physique goals are very different these days from what they were throughout my 12 year competitive career. The goal then was to maximize results and build every ounce of muscle possible. Now my physique goals are simply to maintain muscle, feel good and be healthy.
I feel my current goals are still best achieved using the Max-OT principles that I learned from Paul Delia, founder of AST Sports Science. The only difference between now and during my "hay day" is intensity. Instead of always striving to better my numbers each workout in the 4-6 rep range my weight selection is a bit more modest and I typically end up in the upper end of the range (6 reps). I still train each body part only once per week (usually over a 5 day period) and adhere to the Max-OT principles of exercise selection and set volume.
The next most popular question is about my diet. My diet is no longer structured like it was for all those years. I can't tell you how many calories or grams of protein I take in daily. I keep it pretty simple. During the week I eat clean trying to avoid excess calories. I continue to follow some important supplement timing strategies such as VP2 Whey Isolate, DGC, GL3 L-Glutamine and Micronized Creatine post workout and I still have VP2 and breakfast cereal first thing every day. Beyond that I use Muscle XGF as a meal replacement as well as VyoPro Protein Bars to help get quality protein throughout the day. I couple that with a one or two whole food meals that consist of a protein source and usually a salad to get some vegetables. When the weekend comes I eat pretty much like a normal human being would. If I want it, I eat it. This dieting pattern works well for me and has allowed me to enjoy life while maintaining my current physique goals.
My primary emphasis these days is more on the business side of things. I'm continually expanding my product line of instructional DVD's as well as my consultation service. I am also very busy as a small business owner/operator of my Powerhouse Gym in Adrian.
Looking back over the last few years I can definitely see how I've evolved in many respects yet also stayed the same. Now I am doing my best to use all that I have learned to achieve new goals and help others achieve as well.
Friday, July 10, 2009
I'm excited to announce I'll have a new DVD ready for release within the next couple weeks. In fact, I am heading into the studio this afternoon to work on the finishing touches.
It is a Posing/Presentation DVD. The format gives you a unique "fly on the wall" perspective as I instruct amateur competitor Stuart MacDonald on the fundamentals of posing and presentation. You get to listen in and watch as I walk Stu through the mandatory poses, standing relaxed poses and a Q&A session where I discuss a variety of related topics.
Upon release there will be a special offer so stay tuned.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
This picture has made its way around the web a few times and is usually followed by comments insisting the photo has been enhanced. It recently popped up again so I figured it was a good time to address it so you could hear the story right from the horse's mouth.
The photo was taken by a fan at the 2001 Arnold Classic Expo and although there turned out to be a bit of an illusion created it was not because of any enhancement after the fact. My arm looks extra large due to the angle the photo was taken NOT because of digital alterations. (My arms are not actually bigger than my head like they appear in this photo!)
So before someone else cries foul, take a deep breath. This is not a grand conspiracy, it's just a picture!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I follow the Max-OT principles as detailed in my training DVD's and you'll see that the workouts are centered on basic compound movements and that I stay away from isolation exercises.
Compound movements are those that involve multi joints/multi muscles and allow you to achieve greater overload over a more natural range of motion as compared their isolation counterparts.
We could investigate any number of examples but let's look at biceps. Always choose movements like barbell and dumbbell curls over concentration curls or preacher curls. Barbell/dumbbell curls will allow you to handle more weight and thus achieve more muscle growth stimulation.
Isolation exercises can make for good photography so you may come across photos of me like the one pictured here (taken by Jason Mathas the day after the 2003 USA's in Las Vegas) but that doesn't mean I sneak them into my workout when no one is watching. I don't.
If you are striving for maximum steroid free results, stick with basic compound movements and leave isolation exercises for photos!
Monday, July 6, 2009
Of all the raging debates out there about my drug free status, one of the silliest to me involves the issue of pro hormones.
I took pro hormones for a period of time in the early 2000’s. Anyone who actually read along with my training journals on the AST Sports Science web site knows they ranked at the bottom of my supplement list as far as importance.
I added them to my supplement arsenal because I felt if they helped my results by a few percent it would be smart to include them considering I was competing to be number one against the world’s best drug free bodybuilders. At that level of competition I figured a few percent might actually make a difference. I never believed they would have drug like effects and guess what…..they didn’t.
I didn’t touch a pro hormone until after 1999. By that time I had already won multiple state titles, took 5th at the NPC Teen Nationals (behind the likes of some very big names currently competing at the highest level of the IFBB) AND won the 1999 Team Universe Light Hvy Weight division. If my physique was made by pro hormones than how do you explain my success prior to taking any? And as a side note, I wasn’t even taking any for much of the last year (2003) which was my best year ever.
By personal experience I didn’t notice much of a difference when taking pro hormones verses not taking them. By far the most effective supplements for me were VP2 Whey Isolate, GL3 L-Glutamine, Micronized Creatine (Creatine HSC) and at the time Ny-Tro PRO 40. Pro hormones were way down on that list. In fact, I always got a kick out of the people whose first question about supplementation would be which pro hormones to “stack.” I would always tell them to spend most of their supplement budget on protein first, then creatine and glutamine and never replace one of those foundational supplements with a pro hormone. That tells you what I felt about their overall importance in a supplement plan.
In hind sight I wish I would have never taken any because they didn’t make a big difference and it opened the door just a crack for the haters to latch on to something to try to diminish my success and tarnish my drug free status.
If you think for one second that my success was based on pro hormone usage then you are severely uninformed.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Over training is one of the biggest enemies of the steroid free bodybuilder. More is not better when it comes to frequency or duration of workouts. It is very important to maximize recovery by following a smart plan and for my money there is no plan smarter or more effective for a natural training athlete than Max-OT.
One of the Max-OT principles is to take one week off of training every 8-10 weeks. This week off is important for long term gains. It helps you recover both physically and mentally from several weeks straight of intense workouts.
Too many people fear taking any time off because they think they are going to shrink over night. That is not going to happen. Muscle doesn't build that quickly and it doesn't go away that quickly either. If you train consistently week in and week out then a strategic week off should be part of your plan and plays an important role in your long term success.
Remember you are actually recovering and growing on your week off, especially if you focus on great nutrition. Make sure you keep feeding your muscles quality protein consistently each day and you will return to the gym with renewed hunger and greater intensity for the next 8 weeks.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
No doubt this was my personal best and as far as I am concerned there could not have been a more fitting way to end my competitive career.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
People are still brainwashed to believe that you have to do millions of crunches to have a great mid section. You see it on TV all the time with the latest and greatest ab busting machine and that only perpetuates the problem.
Let me say it again.....YOU CAN NOT SPOT REDUCE FAT. You could do millions of crunches and never see chiseled abdominals.
Having great abs has a simple formula and the two primary variables in that formula for achieving the desired look are cardio and diet. That is right - cardio and diet are the keys NOT crunches.
In our documentary "I Want to Look Like That Guy" Stuart MacDonald goes from a 44 inch waist to a ripped and shredded contest ready set of abs and a lean 27 inch waist by doing abs directly only 1 time per week with resistance. Let me repeat....44 inch waist to 27 inch waist and did not do high rep abdominal training. (On a side note, do not forget with heavy Max-OT training abs and core muscles are worked daily as stabilizers during free weight compound movements. This also supports the idea that you should not be directly training your abs multiple times a week.)
The key to Stu obtaining awesome abs was his attention to diet over a 6 month span and short and intense cardiovascular activity done on a daily basis.
Abdominals were one of my strongest body parts that rivaled anyone on stage whether they were steroid free or not. My abs got better every year because of Max-OT style training which included training abs directly with resistance only once per week. Diet and cardio did the rest.
You have to treat abdominals like any other muscle. You need to build them with resistance and then melt away the body fat with cardio and diet to reveal the coveted 6 pack.
The sooner you can get the notion out of your head that you need to do hundreds of crunches to get a ripped mid section the sooner you will be on your way to achieving awesome abs!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The first is by Skip La Cour who is a true legend of Natural Bodybuilding. He's a six time national champion and one of my mentors. As I mentioned in a blog a few days ago it was a phone consultation with Skip in 1998 that was a real turning point for my career. Another little known fact is it was Skip who introduced me to Paul Delia, owner of AST Sports Science and that started my relationship with AST which was the other huge stepping stone in my career.
I've always had immense respect for Skip and all he has accomplished so his review of our documentary means a great deal to me.
"The movie 'I Want to Look Like That Guy" is an inspiring story that teaches a lot more than being successful at creating a great body. It demonstrates what it takes to be successful at ANYTHING you attempt to do in life. This is a must-see movie if you feel that you 'deserve' success and you just can't figure out why it alludes you. Although the movie does a great job of showing what it takes to look like that guy, don't waste the valuable life lessons it teaches only on that pursuit."
Skip La Cour
Six-Time National Bodybuilding Champion
The other review comes from John Koenig who writes a column called "Stuff I Like" for rxmuscle.com. I think he really nails the overall message of the documentary:
"Film maker Stuart MacDonald asked himself the question thousands have
wondered about: Just what would it take to change my body into that of the
guy in the fitness advertisements? But MacDonald took it a step further, seeking
out IFBB pro bodybuilder Jeff Willet, who is the guy in the ads and owns a gym.
At 42 years old, with a 44-inch waist and a soft physique nearly 30% body fat,
MacDonald must have appeared a daunting project. Nonetheless, Willet decided
he'd teach Stuart how to train, set up meal plans for him, and otherwise guide
him through the entire process. "I Want To Look Like That Guy" is an
entertaining documentary of the roller coaster ride that ensued. MacDonald had
no idea what he was getting into.
I appreciate that Willet's 18-week Phase One was about learning to workout, with minimal involvement in the nutritional end. This comes closest to what the average man-in-the-street thinks those ads are telling them: join a gym, or better yet, buy this piece of exercise equipment (can we all say Bowflex?), follow a simple workout program a few days a week, and bingo, soon you'll be shredded and muscular.
After one week, MacDonald was asking the camera why his body hadn't visibly changed. This sounds ridiculous to anyone in the industry, but remember, most people don't know any better! That's why the ads are successful. He began the experiment at 27% body fat, and a dozen weeks of workouts later was only down to 25%. Of course, a massive cookie binge that 12th week slowed progress down. Sounds bad, but what could be more typical of the average person?
Phase 2 adds the dieting component. Now things get interesting, and MacDonald begins to learn for the first time how involved what he's attempting to do is. Willet lays it all out for him, every meal of each day. As the meal plans change, they are discussed between the two of them, and the actual plan is displayed on the screen. I applaud Willet for providing this much detail.
"It's scary how hard it is to get lean enough for photo sessions. You have no idea, you may look great, but you'll have no life, no energy," said MacDonald into the camera, alone one evening in his home. He was hungry, tired of being tired, and feeling sorry for himself.
At another point, further into the project, co-producer Willet tells Stuart, "You have to feel real bad to look real good! I don't care if you fall down, I don't care if you feel faint... stick to the nutrition!" Willet was tremendous, at times boosting MacDonald's spirits, at other points strongly shaking him up and making it clear he had to stay in the game and be disciplined
or nothing was going to happen. "I'm tired of hearing people make excuses!" he tells MacDonald later in the film when he's hearing excuses.
In a post on Rxmuscle, Willet pointed out "One of the primary points is to illustrate that for the ‘average' person with a job, family and normal life obligations, it is not functional or realistic to achieve and maintain single-digit body fat percentages. However, that is what would be required if you want to look like the guys in the ads. It takes intense personal sacrifice with your diet and
Stuart MacDonald struggles with the aspects of this project all of us deal with. It takes months and months to change the body this much (drug-free, keep in mind). Workouts come and go; one or two cardio sessions per day take priority in his life. Friends and family find themselves on the sidelines; he gets lonely. He's always hungry!
Stu bravely lives his life before the cameras; we see him shave his body, he poses for photos every week; he trains, he learns to pose. His doubts and failures play out before us, and didn't end up on the editing-room floor. Slowly, then more quickly as he dials in the nutrition and remains consistent, MacDonald's body begins to become that of a bodybuilder, right in front of the camera. It's fascinating to watch and listen to him confide in the camera, and to be the fly on the wall for countless meetings with Jeff Willet, who faithfully, consistently provides moral support, motivation, and all his workout and dietary programs.
By the time MacDonald has morphed into an under-6% body fat bodybuilder and is preparing to compete in an NPC contest, the viewer cannot help but be rooting for him to make it.
"I Want to Look Like That Guy" shows that a regular guy can look like the guy in the ad, but it takes a smart, disciplined plan outside the understanding of most "regular guys." Stuart MacDonald made dramatic changes to his physique, and they took many months. This movie clearly illustrates how difficult it is to get into true bodybuilding condition, and exposes the ads selling an image clearly unrealistic for most people to achieve.
"I Want To Look Like That Guy" is entertaining, truthful, and passionate. It's not about training, nor the world of bodybuilding; it's about the very real journey Stuart MacDonald took as he transformed himself."
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
It is true that you want to continually strive to increase your weights when training Max-OT style, however, it is important to remember not to increase weights at the expense of form and control.
The idea is once you hit 6 reps on your own with good execution you should increase your weight for the next set by the smallest increment possible. If you are struggling to get 6 reps or if your form is compromised to get 6 reps then do not increase until you get 6 "good" reps.
What is a good rep? If you've seen any of my training DVD's you've seen illustration of what I feel is a good rep. To me a good rep is one with maximal weight that can be controlled through a natural range of motion.
If you feel your form has become compromised, don't be afraid to take a step back with your weights. Remember that muscle doesn't know absolute poundage, it knows a resistance level. In other words, you could have less absolute weight on the bar and be performing the movement better and thus be directing more actual resistance to the intended muscle group. More resistance/overload = more muscle growth stimulation.
Monday, June 22, 2009
This was the same contest I was training Stuart MacDonald for. Ironically, we had already targeted this show long before I was asked to be guest poser.
It was a perfect ending for a few reasons.....One, it was the very stage (Redford Theatre) where I started my competitive career in 1991. Two, it was a way for family and friends to see me in my element one last time. Three, when I won the Team Universe in 2003 I didn't know at that time it was going to be my final time onstage so this gave me a chance going into it knowing this would be my finale. Finally, it was perfect because it added an unexpected twist to the story that was unfolding right in front of the cameras as we filmed the documentary.
Friday, June 19, 2009
I do not advise going to the point of forced reps where your partner is assisting you in completing the last 2 or 3 reps of a set.
Once you complete 6 reps on your own with good execution that is your cue to add weight. If you are doing forced reps you will not have a good indication of when to increase weights because you will be using more weight then you could actually handle on your own in the desired 4-6 rep range.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
One of the primary points is to illustrate that for the "average" person with a job, family and normal life obligations it is not functional or realistic to achieve and maintain single digit body fat percentage, however, that is what would be required if you want to look like the guys in the ads.
People are sold the image on a daily basis that if you take a certain supplement or buy a special machine then you too can look like the model featured in the ad. What they fail to tell you is that in order for the vast majority of body types to achieve single digit or a "bodybuilding lean" / "photography lean" physique it takes intense personal sacrifice with your diet and life style.
In the film you watch Stu go through it all from starting at about 30% body fat to achieving under 6% body fat and ultimately competing and placing 2nd in an NPC bodybuilding contest all at the age of 43 and with a very busy professional life.
I am so proud of the movie because it shows you CAN look like the guy in the ad if you execute an intelligent approach with discipline and consistent hard work (the same approach I used to become an IFBB Pro - drug free) for a long period of time AND it also shows just how hard it is to get "bodybuilding lean" and it exposes all those ads that sell an image which is unrealistic for most people.
We are not talking about a bodybuilder here or someone striving to be a fitness model. Then, of course, that lifestyle is required to succeed in that field and the person knows that going into it. We are talking about your so-called average 40 something man that just wants to look like the image he has been sold verses what it really takes to look like the guy in the ads. I should know because I was the guy in the ad!
If you actually watch the film, the message should jump right off the screen at you. Try not to judge too harshly until you have actually watched it.