I Never(!!!) Read My Own Work, but…
So, my former student, Doc Brunetti and I bump into each other just after my blood test. Next Wednesday, I get my physical and he had a few minutes. Well, he is proud of his “old coach” and asked for copies of all my books. I figure to myself: “Well, he is going to putting digits in places no digits belong, so let’s follow up on this!”
Tiff had a copy of “Mass Made Simple” at work and I stole it from her. I stole it in a kind and loving way, of course, but, honestly, few people should steal from an office of the federal government. When I got home, I read it…for the first time.
Few people know this: I HATE pictures of me or reading my own work. Hell, for me, is watching videos (well, Blue Ray in Hell) of me teaching. I can’t read my own work. As I read MMS, I came away amazed…and a touch proud…of the work. It might be some of my best writing, my best work. So, I decided to cut and paste a small taste of my favorite part.
Originally, this was going to be a blog post about people who hate my faith and ended up needing favors from me, a sexist guy who had to take a golf cart ride from my daughter (folks, mess with me. I will only rip your arms off…my girls (Kelly, Lindsay and Tiffini) will do much, much worse) and how wonderful the community of training actually is in this world. That might be my next blog, but, for now, enjoy this free sample of what I liked in the book:
The Principles Behind Bulking
“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” Emerson
If you want Methods for Bulking, the fitness world is brimming with them! The conversation on forums usually goes like this (for ease of reading, I will actually capitalize words and attempt to spell them right, unlike the internets):
Q: Hey, my good lads, I need a superior Bulking Program that will put lots of weight on me quickly.
Answer Number One from “lovetobulkupandcruise2”:
Work your legs on Monday, Arms on Tuesday, Chest and Back on Wednesday, Arms on Thursday, Friday just rest, Arms on Saturday. Rest on Sunday, my Brother in Iron, as you will need it.
Answer Number Two from “biggestgunzinthelargermetropolitanareaofrawlinswyoming:
Wow, that looks good, but I would switch Tuesday and Thursday.
Alas, it is only a slight exaggeration.
Breaking up the body in to smaller parts (call “splitting”) is a method. Oh, it works and it can work very well. But that is just a “thing.” Principle Based Bulking is designed around four simple insights:
1. Everybody is the same, but just enough different to warrant some exploration.
2. Doing everything at once makes it difficult to discern what is working.
3. There is a need to spend time under a load.
4. There are some nutritional tweaks that work.
Everybody is the same, but just enough different to warrant some exploration.
In full candor, I believe in absolute dignity of every human person. Having said that, I have also coached and played in sport over four decades. Certainly, human size fits into a certain bell curve. As Nassim Taleb summed this point (which I will paraphrase), if I told you that two people walking down the street had a sum of their heights at 12 feet, most people would get the idea that each of them was probably around six feet, give or take. It would be rare person who would guess a ten footer and a two footer were strolling together.
So, yes, we are all God’s creatures endowed with certain inalienable rights and our Mothers love us. Now, let’s be honest: there are some people who are going to simply be stronger, faster, and prettier than you and me and that is just the way it is. So, in discussing a Bulking program, we have to accept some variations.
That’s the problem with most methods of bulking. It is a template that we simply step into and on Day One I do this and that and this. By the way, this method works! Except for some, so let’s get back to the principle.
Stu McGill, the great Canadian back specialist, spent some quality time with me recently and noted that I had a “Scottish Hip.” Instantly, certain things made sense. Years ago, I was tested with a little machine that measured maximal poundage in certain lifting positions. At the Quarter Squat position, I maxed out the machine at 1400 (I’m not sure I could support it, but the system said I was pushing that amount). In the Half Squat, I was at 255. The next guy was literally 405 in both positions.
I noted this story to Stu and he said: “Of course. That is why you do the Caber Toss and throw things. You are built for it.” Now, McGill is the expert here, but he told me to look at the popular sports of a region and how they tend to reflect the basic small, but crucial, difference in body structure.
To sum up: you have this structure. It’s not going to change, but it is going to impact your Bulking program. Long limbed guys with narrow shoulders probably will struggle with double bodyweight squats for max reps.
But, there is more. I know guys who can treadmill for long periods of time. I get bored after I touch all the buttons. I’m not going to be doing a lot of boring, repetitive stuff in my career because it is literally not in my nature. I work with athletes who can groove in on one thing and just keep doing it over and over.
Well, what about you? Can you sit at terminal and work on the Williewank Proposal or whatever for ten hours. Or, do you have to be stimulated? The way you are wired to work has a huge impact on your training. With luck, a “One Size Fits All Program” might be perfect for you, but most people seem to have little luck beyond a few weeks with any program.
There is no question that the axiom, “Success leaves tracks,” is true. Part of the issue with bulking is making sure those tracks take you on the right path.
Doing everything at once makes it difficult to discern what is working.
If there is one bit of clarity from my coaching career, it is simply this: Keep It Simple, Stupid. The KISS method is certainly just a cliché to many, but, time and again, it is the secret to success for most people.
Recently, I AGAIN had this conversation with an elite athlete who was injured. “How did you get hurt?” “Oh, well, we had this idea to do…” The athletic careers of so many amazing athletes have been brought to a halt by simply adding one new great idea, that looked so promising on paper or on the net, and then trashing a bodypart in the process.
Here is a hint: stick with what was working and be very mindful of adding anything new.
In Bulking programs, very often the person is given a long list of things do including food programs, supplements, secret voodoo stuff and lots of little other things. Well, which one works? Which one is counterproductive? I have tried many very expensive programs in the past, including one that set me back hundreds in supplements to train on an empty stomach then work to excess, and when one is mixing five or six or ten items, which one works?
Certain things make some people sick to their stomachs. Mix that with high rep squats and you have the perfect recipe for a mess on the floor. You must take some time adding ingredients to the bulking recipe.
There is a need to spend time under a load.
To be honest, I think this is the most complex principle. Notice what I didn’t say: you must do this exercise for this many reps and this many sets. Well, I will, but honestly the load can be any tool you want:
They all work. Now, some are obviously better for some things than the others, but the loading is the key. I made my biggest gains in bodyweight with weights that were not very heavy in hindsight, but they were killing me at the time. Why? Well, I had never done, for example, a Front Squat. The wrist flexibility issue alone was making my nights long. Add in all the other joints, the upright posture and the fact I had never done real squatting before added up to a lot of dead legs and tired arms and back for a long time. My body responded, even to these relatively light loads, by exploding in growth.
Time is also a bit hazy, too. You can get freakishly big, if that’s the way you are made, by doing just singles. I have never seen a waifish 800 pound deadlifter. The time it takes to deadlift a max attempt is far shorter than running a marathon, although you might feel the same after either finish. It does seem, by the eyeball test, that most guys who are longer limbed and a little taller need more reps and more time with the load in hand to gain size. If you are one of those 5’ 2” fireplug shaped guys, added width might be pretty easy by simply moving singles. If you are 7’ 2” NBA center, we need to spend some time with more reps.
I think that there are great, simple ways of extending time under a load. Sadly, the two best are complexes and high rep squats. Why “sadly?” They both make you feel awful! Now, if it is true that stomach upset is a sign of Growth Hormone release, at least you can feel happy that you are releasing GH for free.
There are some nutritional tweaks that work.
I feel bad for a lot of guys on bulking programs. In fact, in hindsight, I feel bad for me. I was on a gallon of milk a day to bulk up in the late 1970’s. I found out later that I was Lactose Intolerant. That might have explained the “explosiveness” of my day (let’s just say “I was gassy” and move on) and the huge acne cysts on my face. I was literally drinking a kind of poison (for me) every day. Modern protein powders are miles ahead of what we had “back in the day,” so this is much easier to deal with today.
I give this advice, over and over, for most people’s goals:
Eat More Protein.
Eat More Fiber.
Take more Fish Oil.
And, that is exactly the advice I will give you for each and every program I ever design for any sport or goal. But, we will go a bit farther. Instead of choking down as much as you can every day, we will build up to several very inventive and exciting techniques where we use the clock as much as we use our mouth to utilize our protein intake.
Creatine, for example, works wonders for some people and provides misery for others. In the traditional “Shot Gun” approach to Bulking, we would add it from Day One. We will do things different. I would rather give you a few days to test your personal response to Creatine. Should you have no issues, stay the course. If cramping or distress appears, we know the culprit.
Let’s get started: The Mental Side of Bulking.
The Toolkit for Goal Setting: The Key to Bulking
Eat your way to SUCCESS!!!
I think I could make a fortune with a book entitled “Eat your way to success.” I love to browse bookstores through the diet, fitness and cooking sections and just feast on all the delicious options for food and not eating food. Everything makes you fat, if you look through enough diet books. That same “thing” is also the cure for your fatness in a book one shelf away. Walk over to the Personal Success isle and you can learn to talk to yourself until you have a million dollars. Rather than talk to yourself like the nice lady on the midnight bus from downtown, I suggest eating your way to success.
Honestly, the three best mental images I have for success involve eating. From what I have seen across the vast landscape of America, I think that eating is not a rarity for many here in these United States. I have been elbowed by many a moo mooed woman in a buffet line in Las Vegas and I have the war wounds to prove it. Sadly, my “Frog, Elephant and Alpo Dog Food Diet” might lose customers simply by the title. Every time I fly, I see an advertisement for something called the “Cookie Diet.” That can sell. Somehow, even if it was “The All You Can Eat Frog, Elephant and Alpo Dog Food Diet” still might not break the top ten bestseller list.
If there is an axiom for a successful life and having any chance at achieving any goals, it would be the following:
“You can’t do everything, but you can do something.”
Let that sit before you for a moment. If I could do anything for my legacy to this fine planet earth, I would hope and pray it would be “Do something.” For years, at workshops I have been preaching my “secret” two words to success: show up. I need to add “Do something,” too.
In this approach to bulking, we are NOT going to do everything. We are going to add some basic things and see how the journey is taking you. But, you MUST do something: Show UP!
My favorite story about the magic of simply showing up happened in 1984. I was standing in line, after a long train ride to get to there and probably no real sleep in two days, to register for my intensive Turkish language class. Quick, imagine me standing in line because that is all I was doing. If you have ever stood in line, use that imagine if that is easier for you.
A guy behind the registration desk slammed a phone down, looked up at me and said;” Do you want $1500.” My answer was “uh, yes.” It turns out that another student just decided to quit and had been given a nice stipend just to show up. I was given a check in the next three minutes for $1500 for simply standing in line.
If you want to be a national champion, you really need to get to the stadium on time. If you decide to get married, the ceremony starts at 11. Be there. Showing up is underrated as a life skills success clue.
Of course, showing up is only step one. Step two is to do something. When I counsel/mentor/coach/teach/help others in goal setting it often only takes a few minutes to outline a list of goals in every single area of life. Warning: be careful about setting goals, because you may attain them. Almost every time I have had one of these goal setting experiences, the person looks up and smiles from this sheet of paper, then their eyes go wide and they ask: “Well, uh, what do I do?”
Easy to type. Easy to read. And, actually, easy to do. The problem for most people is that the enormity of a goal seems to explode like the Big Bang before them. You want to get your college degree? Well, you have to register, get a parking pass, find the cafeteria, buy a school sweatshirt, find a lifetime friend to have several funny experiences, go on a roadtrip, write and lose the Great American Novel, read a book simply from Cliff Notes…hey, you have a lot to do! For me, when someone says to college, I have a refreshing mental image of fun, study and free time. Why the disconnect? Well, I’ve done it! Talk to people have had done the goal you are interested in achieving, and, well, do what they say!
By following the path of generations of successful “bulkers” of the past, you are well on your way to success!
That is why I go to experts when I have a question. Years ago, as I often joke, I “woke up” fat. For many of us, you may understand that completely. Working two jobs, raising kids, mowing lawns, struggling with life, and all the rest might just keep you from making excellent food and exercise decisions each and every day. And, one day, you wake up fat. So, I consulted a group of women called the “100 pound club.” Each of the women had lost one hundred pounds through a variety of diets, exercise choices and attempts, and discussed their findings freely. You see, they had been there. My friend, Dave, dropped one hundred pounds by simply making a new habit each month, from something as simple as drinking more water each day to walking each day. When it came time for serious goals, like running a Half Marathon, his background of successfully nailing progressively harder goals led him across the finish line. If you want to learn about fat loss, ask a competitive bodybuilder. If you want to learn about persuasive speaking, ask or read Lincoln or Churchill. If you want to learn the next step after “showing up,” listen to me. Let’s do something! To help you “do something,” let’s discuss my “Frog, Elephant and Alpo Dog Food Diet.”
The First Thing is To Do SOMETHING!
The first thing about getting things done is that there is always something, something big, sitting there that you don’t want to do. Years ago, my wife, Tiffini, clued me in on how to deal with this:
“If you have to eat a plate of frogs, eat the biggest one first.” Hmmm? Listen, this “system” works. If you have to do something today involving a crappy phone call, an awful meeting or a visit to the IRS, schedule it first. I made a career as a strength coach simply by teaching people to do FIRST the stuff they don’t want to do in the weight room or in the field of play. Eat the BIGGEST frog first.
Imagine a plate of frogs sitting before you. Now, imagine that you will get a billion dollars for eating the whole plate. Would you do it? Or, is your revulsion from eating our little frog friends so great you will pass on the billion? For most of us, including me, I am going to shove those guys down my throat as fast as I can for a billion bucks. Yep, I have standards about food and drink, but I will take the billion, thank you very much.
Which one should you start with? Tiff tells us to reach in and grab the biggest one and swallow it down and, from there, none of the little ones will wiggle down as much.
So, Rule One of “Do something” is to pick the worst thing you perceive of the new direction or decision and get rid of it. Surprisingly, it is usually not bad. Moreover, the RELIEF (breath out, wipe your brow, relax your shoulders, smile again) of dealing with this first big frog makes the rest of the goal pretty easy. I have been there many times in my life. As a teacher, it is dealing with the crazy helicopter parent (the parent whirling constantly around their child), as a professional, it might be that task that just feels like labor pains and you can fill in the blanks for yourself here. Find the big frog. Eat it.
1. Show Up
2. Do Something (Eat the Biggest Frog/Issue first)
That is why we are going to emphasize the High Rep Back Squat in our bulking program from the first day to the last day. You are free to hate them, loathe them and perhaps never do them again the rest of your life, but, folks, the High Rep Back Squat is the biggest frog I can find.
Wipe your palate clean from the frog juice, try a refreshing gelato, and let’s get ready for the next meal: Elephant.
One of the oldest motivational clichés I know is this: if you have to eat an elephant, start with one mouthful at a time. In goal setting success, you need to take small bites, but keep on biting! I can remember fondly when my daughter Kelly first began to learn to speak. I was overwhelmed, to be honest. Think about it: the days of the week, the names of the months, holidays, clocks, street signs, the presidents, the political system…there was so much to teach her!
She did fine. We didn’t have one day to do it all. From preschool elementary to high school to college, we ate a bit of the elephant every day. Trust me, if you can learn the days and the months, you can achieve your easier goals like adding some Lean Body Mass.
So, Do Something comes in two flavors: Frog (take on the ugliest task first) and elephant (attack a bit of the task every time you can). If your goal is to bulk up, have a few photos taken of you in your swimsuit. You will hate it. Learn to squat, if you don’t already know how. A quality bulking program is going to be rough. But, what’s your motivation? Now, let’s talk about dog food. Successful people will almost always mention that it was a series of small goals, small changes that lead to success
The single best piece of diet advice I ever heard came from peak performance consultant Anthony Robbins. Robbins got his advice from one of his clients. It’s called the “Alpo Diet.” Invite a dozen friends over to your house. Tell them that by the end of the month you’re going to lose ten pounds. Tell them that if you don’t, you’ll eat the can of Alpo in front of them.
For the next week, every time you feel the urge to take a piece of chocolate from the cubicle next to you, reread the contents of the Alpo can. If someone offers you something smothered in goo, open the Alpo can and take a good deep sniff.
Robbins approach is based simply on the principle that most people would rather avoid pain than embrace joy or pleasure. I can sit you down and give you line after line, reason after reason, about why making a life change or choice is going to really help you. I can show you movies of the new joy you will find once you succeed your own goals. And, most people will ignore them. If you need some encouragement, crack open the can and sniff some Alpo and, for whatever reason, we tend to stick to the plan!
And, before you can say it, why don’t people meet their goals? Honestly, I have spent many hours at cafes, bars, bistros, cafeterias, libraries and corners of gyms walking people through pyramids, charts and schemes to achieve all manners of goals and, more often than not, they fail. Perhaps the simple answer is this: it’s me. I seem to be the common denominator here. And, I’m sure many people will take that option: Let’s just blame Dan. I have broad shoulders, feel free to stand on them!
You see, motivation is a strange thing. Every person reading is familiar with some aspect of the Frog, Elephant and Alpo Dog Food Diet. None of this is news. Oh, this is going to be the cornerstone of your goal achieving as this Diet, simple as it may seem, is the foundation for every single goal ever achieved. Two parts then of our success program then are this:
1. Show up.
2. The Frog, Elephant, and Alpo Dog Food Diet (Start with a tough task, keep chewing away and have something awful in mind if you fail)
I don’t want to walk away from the Alpo Diet too quickly. For years, I have argued that the best client a personal trainer can have would be someone like this:
• Recently divorced woman whose husband ran away with ex-best friend, who is chubby.
• High School Reunion coming up where woman, ex-husband and ex-best-friend will all attend.
• Old high school friend, who is also a Billionaire now, really wants to “see her” as he had a crush on her all four years of school. His private jet will drop him off to his private helicopter at the reunion.
Now, with this woman, I can make demands. “Twenty eggs a day.” Fine. “Two workouts a day.” I will do another on my own. “A pound of salmon for breakfast.” Raw?
You see, pain brings clarity towards a goal. I would love to use pain as the crowbar to engage my people to stick to their goals. I wish. There rarely seems enough pleasure out there to overcome the magic of cookies and creamy ice cream. The problem with goals and goal setting is that it is hard to get someone to buy in to the promise of future pleasure to overcome momentary pain.
All right, let’s look at the Mental Toolkit and how it relates to this Bulking Plan.
You are already ahead of most of the guys who want to simply wave a magic wand and get twenty pounds of lean body mass added on to their body.
Now, your task is simple. I ‘m going to ask that you show up to the weightroom a couple of times a week and train hard. I also want to add a few, small additions to your diet. Some aspects will be hard and others will just be humoring me (even though the suggestions work!).
The Frog? Well, that’s going to be the Back Squat program. Sorry.
The Elephant? Well, simply, you need to follow the advice, do the workouts, ease up your other activities and move ahead one day at a time.
The Dog Food? That’s up to you, my friend. When I decided to do the Velocity Diet, I started an extremely popular forum topic at t-nation.com and literally answered dozens of posts some days. I “put it out there.” If I failed that diet, it would have been a big deal and a real hit to my integrity. I know that part of the reason I was so successful with Dick Notmeyer’s advice is that I was running quickly out of time to compete as a college athlete. I had to get bigger as fast as I could and I poured all my energy into it. My dog food would have been the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” that so many former high school athletes bore their friends and family with the rest of their lives (please shuffle to “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen).
Pour your energy into these next few weeks and months of work. This is a familiar path; many have walked this before with great success. Now, it’s your turn. Eat up!