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Re: John Christy "lost" articles
Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 10:11 pm
Thank you Tom, much appreciated. Congratulations on the move and most important making the family happy.Next most important finding a decent gym and the potential for a home gym.Pick Stick's brains on setting up a home gym he has some great ideas, well many of then are already on the site. Happy home and home gym building.
Re: John Christy "lost" articles
Posted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 12:12 am
A yeoman task typing and contributing all this valuable text Tom.
You're a good man . Best of luck with the new digs ...
Re: John Christy "lost" articles
Posted: Tue Dec 25, 2018 11:38 pm
The Training cycle. A scientific look
Happy Christmas everybody.
The articles I have left to type:
How to eat to lose fat
The final straight is in sight.
The Training Cycle
A Scientific Look at Why it Works
“The Training Cycle” was one of my first editorial contributions. It was written in early 1995. This article references training periods or “cycles” lasting 12 to 20 Weeks in duration before a trainee experiences the Exhaustion Phase of the General Adaptation Syndrome. In the years following the writing of this article I have learned how to greatly lengthen training cycles, delaying the Exhaustion Phase by manipulating certain variables in ones training program. By simply manipulating one variable-the rep goal of a set-I’ve had numerous trainees “cycles” last over one year. I’ve even had several last much longer-and one who continued to make progress for exactly 104 weeks (two years). So, although this article isn’t a reflection of my current practices, the science of how the body responds and adapts to stress as presented in this article is accurate and informative.
Have you ever wondered why you should take a week or more off from training after hitting a new big max, and then start a new gaining cycle using only 80% or so of the new max? And haven’t you wondered why you have to wait 4-8 weeks till you can handle the big weights again? Kind of tough to do, isn’t it? It takes patience; and patience comes from believing it will work and deliver ever increasing size and strength. There is concrete research to back up the cycling of training intensity. For long-term gains, intensity cycling is one of the very best interpretations there is of sound training. After reaching that new big max in, for example, the bench press, of say 300 pounds for 5 reps, you’re a little sluggish getting a workout started, and your shoulder aches a little when you warm up. But to take 10-14 days or so off now, and start. A new bench cycle with only 80% of the 300 pounds and then taking 4-8 weeks to reach 300 lbs again before going into new poundage territory, is not appealing at all. This is the primary thinking (greed) that pervades most people, and is why most trainees never leave the intermediate stage of strength and development. This lack of patience is understandable though. You worked very hard to get to this point, and you don’t want to lose what you've worked so hard to gain. I know you're afraid that you've going to lose size and strength. But this won't happen, and you'll actually feel bigger at the end of one week's rest, following 12-20 weeks of all out training.
I want to state again, that if you don’t cycle your training intensity, you will have a hard time progressing past your current state of development. Why does cycling work? Read on, there's science to back it up.
I‘m sure that many of you have never heard of Dr. Hans Selye. He is considered by many to he the world’s leading authority on stress. He authored the famous book THE STRESS OF LIFE. As well as contributing over 1,500 articles to technical Journals and writing 29 other books on the subject of how the body responds to stress, all of, which applies directly to weight training.
I want you to remember throughout this article that stress is not merely “nervous strain”, to use Selye’s words, but the body’s response to any stimulus, positive or negative. The stress-producing factors, technically called stressors, are different yet they all elicit essentially the same biological stress response. Dr. Selye performed numerous experiments with various stressors, including “intense muscular work” The latter applies directly to weight trainees.
I’m going to tell you about one such experiment. Stick with me and you will see that you need to cycle your training, because progress is not linear (you cannot keep progressing indefinitely, without giving the body a break), and the ability of the body to adapt to weight training is finite, from cycle to cycle.
In his book THE STRESS OF LIFE, Dr. Selye gives an account of how a group of rats was exposed to various stressors (e.g., cold environment, drugs, infections) including “forced muscular work” and the results were “always the same as far as adapting to the stress,” to quote Selye. So, there is much we can learn from this experiment.
Rats that were given time (5 weeks or more) to adapt to moderate levels of stress, could then withstand extremely high levels of the stress for months. But if given less time at the moderate level, they couldn’t withstand the higher stress level. After months of continually adapting to the higher stress level, “acquired resistance was lost again“ and exhaustion set in (a sticking point), and no matter what measures were taken (extra food, or even when placed under moderate levels of stress again) adaptation continued to diminish. These rats went through what Selye has named the “General Adaptation Syndrome,” which is the way the body responds to any stress (including weight training). The GAS is composed of three phases: Alarm Reaction Phase, Resistance Phase, and Exhaustion Phase. The actions of the body as it goes through the three phases of the GAS are based on “demonstrable biological laws” learned from the laboratory. Let's now take a look at the three phases, and how to construct a training cycle based on the actions of these phases in response to the stress called Progressive Resistance Training.
PHASE ONE: Alarm Reaction Phase
When a stressor (e g., squat , bench press, deadlift) is first encountered, the body must rally Its resources, so that It can, literally., Survive. This is called the Acute Stage of the Alarm Reaction Phase. As Selye notes, the body has to be given time so that it can take defensive measures by rounding up all the biological resources needed to repair the damaged muscles. And reload with fuel for the next training session. In other words. The weights used to start a cycle must be relatively light, 70% to 80% of a max for the rep range you‘re using, and built up slowly (for 4- 8 weeks) or the body will prematurely enter the Exhaustion Phase, and you will have killed the cycle before it had a chance to start. Be patient!
After the initial 4-8 weeks, or more, you should have built back to your previous best weights. These are now handled relatively comfortably, with a gaining momentum initiated. This is a sign that “adaptation has been acquired and the capacity of the body to resist rises considerably above normal,” to quote Selye. If you try to rush through this phase by adding weight too quickly (due to lacking patience), or in large increments (get yourself some small plates instead), the body won’t be able to rally its resources fast enough and you will bring on a premature end to the cycle, with nothing to show for your efforts. Again, you end up in Phase 3, the Exhaustion Phase, because “no living organism can be maintained continuously in a state of alarm,” to use Selye’ s words. Once you are in the Exhaustion Phase, you have to start all over again. So, be patient, and do it right. Once adaptation has been acquired, it’s time to go into new poundage territory.
PHASE TWO: Resistance Phase
This is the “new territory” phase. At this point, the body can tolerate consistently hard workouts, handling weights that should surpass old records and allow the trainee to break into new ground. This is the phase of the GAS that we look forward to. This part of the cycle can last a very long time (20 weeks or more, in my experience) if care is taken not to override what the body can adapt to. As Selye stated in his book STRESS WITHOUT DISTRESS, “Excessive or unvaried stress... becomes distress. And this, in turn, can lead to...physical breakdown.” So don’t get “excessive.”
(I'll cover “varying” the stress later) Keep it going by adding a very small dose of iron to the bar each workout. If, once again, you get impatient (greedy) and add too much weight, you will kill the cycle and end up in phase 3, with little to show for your efforts. Be smart, be patient, put 100% into every work set at this stage, and really enjoy this phase
PHASE THREE: Exhaustion Phase
Even if you played your curds right, and only added weight in very small increments, slept well, and ate nourishing meals, you would eventually encounter the exhaustion phase. The body can only recover for so long even if you do everything right. The exact reasoning behind what causes the body to enter the Exhaustion Phase, regardless of what steps are taken (e.g., extra rest, food, and even lighter weights) are not clear .But it has been found to be related to long-term release of corticoids. The adrenal glands secrete excessive amounts of corticoids during intense weight training, to combat inflammation. Dr. Selye, in THE STRESS OF LIFE, gives an example of what happens to the body by comparing with what happens to an electric heater during excessive use.
If an electric heater maintains the temperature of a room, we can compensate for excessive cold by using more current. But this is possible only within certain limits . As more and more current is used, there comes a point when the wires burn out; then the whole heating mechanism breaks down, and, significantly, its failure is the direct result of efficient heat regulation. This kind of breakdown can occur in most compensatory mechanisms.
As Selye would put it, the body’s resources to resist or recover from weight training become depleted, and the only way they rebuild is if they do not encounter this stressor for a while. The body needs a break from lifting weights. The key is to know when this phase is starting, and then take at least a week off. If you don’t, and you keep trying to force gains, I promise (and it’s been proven by Dr. Selye, and many real-world examples) you will get weaker and smaller, and very frustrated. You cannot “bully” your body out of the Exhaustion Phase. There are medical symptoms, as well as self observable signs, that your body has had enough and is entering the Exhaustion Phase.
As far as the medical symptoms are concerned, the most generally used and reliable measures of undue stress are the levels of certain blood constituents, mainly the levels of adrenalines, corticoids, ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone), and the eosinophils. Now, unless you have the time and money to have your blood drawn every week to track these constituents, this method is not feasible. So, what you need to be aware of, is recognising the self observable signs that become evident when your body is starting to deplete its “adaptation energy stores” to quite Seyle. The following are five of the most obvious self-observable signs that Phase 2 is ending, and Phase 3 is beginning.
I. No progress
After several weeks of honest 100% effort to all aspects of training (effort in the gym, good food intake, proper rest) you can't seem to make progress. In other words, you keep beating your head against the same poundage’s week after week; This lack of progress may also be accompanied by continually sore joints, This is the best sign to recognise because you haven't depleted yourself too much yet, unless you're also experiencing the following signs.
ii. Elevated heart rate
If you not ice your heart seems to be “racing” while you’re at rest, or especially when you’re sleeping. It‘s a sign your body is working overtime to try to repair itself.
iii. Constant systemic fatigue
You feel like you’re “zoned out” or “wiped out” all the time (not just following a hard workout). You may even experience “flu-like” symptoms. Years ago, when I was training like someone who used steroids i.e., six days per week, sometimes twice a day, I would awake during the night sweating, with a heart rate over 120 beats per minute. Talk about being in an exhausted state.
iv. Psychological/attitude changes
You’ve lost your enthusiasm to train. You just don’t feel like doing it. Irritability sets in (you yell at your dog, girlfriend or mother for no reason) and you’ve developed a bad attitude, or you feel like you could sleep any time any place.
v. Intestinal disturbance
You may develop problems with your digestive tract. Symptoms that appear are usually diarrhoea, indigestion, or you simply lose your appetite and, hence, lose weight.
Dr. Selye classified these symptoms as “diseases of adaptation.” (These are not diseases as you may interpret them though. By definition, a disease is a condition of an organism that impairs normal physiological functioning.) These symptoms occur universally due to any “undue stress,” and are a sign that the body can no longer adapt to the demands being placed upon it. Selye also states that “when they [the signs of undue stress] appear, it’s time to stop or change your activity-that is, find a diversion.” This diversion should take place during what I call the Active~Rest Phase.
PHASE FOUR: Active-Rest Phase
I’ve taken the liberty to add a fourth phase for those involved in weight training to Dr Seyle's General Adaptation Syndrome. I call this the Active Rest phase, and that's what your body needs at this point- rest. Its time to take at least a week off and let your body recover from the pounding it has taken for the last 3-4 months (or perhaps even longer) Some of you may need 2 or 3 weeks of rest, depending on how much you've depleted yourself.
So what do you do during this period? Almost any light activity, just stay out of the Weight room. You can gently jog, swim, ride a bike. Etc. Just stay mildly active, stretch a little. The key is to get some rest, so don’t do anything too stressful. Here is what your body’s going to do.
During this period. Your body is going to restore many of its biochemical resources and functions, particularly the nervous and endocrine systems. These two systems take longer to recover from the stress of the months of working out. After the week or longer off: you’ll be feeling great and ready to hit the gym again.
A new cycle can be started at 80% of your recent new best poundage’s. Once again the body will pass through the first two phases (hopefully you’ll stop before you hit Phase 3 this time) and bring about new strength and the resultant muscular growth. Once again, you’ll have to enter Phase 4 to let the body repair itself, and begin the cycling process again. If you do this for 4 or 5 successful long cycles, you can, literally, metamorphosize yourself.
One additional piece of advice I would give would be to change some of your exercises from cycle to cycle. You should stick to the big basic exercises, but there are plenty of those around. Your training doesn’t have to be boring. There are also physiological reasons for changing your exercises from cycle to cycle. As Dr. Selye stated, “unvaried stress” can lead to depletion of the adaptation energy stores. So, it would be a good idea to change a couple of movements each cycle.
Proven by science and much research, both in the laboratory and field, this is how the body adapts to stress. You can’t get around it. If you want to realize your strength and size potential, cycle your training. Work on developing the awareness necessary to know when your body needs time off, and have the courage to do it. Don’t waste years of your life trying to prove different, and end up short of your potential.
Re: John Christy "lost" articles
Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 2:24 pm
Hi Tom, thanks for the Christmas present.Much appreciated as always.
Re: John Christy "lost" articles
Posted: Sun Apr 14, 2019 8:55 pm
A 4 month hiatus, but another article finished.
The ones left to type are:
How to eat to lose fat
Here is "Craig's Vision quest"
Craigs Vision quest
This article is a compilation of a series of updates that I wrote on Craig chronicling one year of training. Throughout the year, at the end of various articles, I gave readers updates on his progress including his routine, training weights, calorie intake, and bodyweight and body fat percentage. This gave readers the opportunity to see the effects of Micro-loading, combined with a nutritious diet and consistent aerobic work over a one year period. It will also show you how to handle your training when life doesn't go as you plan. This “vision quest” series began after I penned the article Craig Rasmussen- Updated.
The vision quest part 1
Craig wants to gain as much mass and strength as possible for the next year. Starting at a bodyweight of 215 pounds, these are his goals for December 31, 2001:
1- Bodyweight 250lbs +
2- Military press: 220lbs
3- Bench: 350lbs (with pause)
4- Squat: 500lbs (belt only)
5- Dead lift: 550lbs (belt only)
6- Perform 2 low level aerobic sessions per week for one hour each
7- Perform one mid level aerobic session (running) per week for 30 minutes
8- Track calorie consumption on a consistent basis
The Vision Quest Part 2
As mentioned in the previous issue, I'm going to give regular reports on Craigs progress. Craig got his body fat measured at 15% at a weight of 219lbs. If you're thinking, “That guy is fat!” let me assure you he isn't. You can plainly see his abdominal musculature. In the real world of body composition measurements., a body fat percentage of 10 or less produces a “look” that all trainees would call “ripped”. As opposed to the lie that is propagated in the steroid filled world of the glossy muscle mags where, to be considered “ripped” you need a body fat less than 5%. Craig had the test performed at the University of Southern California. The person, who administered the test, has tested hundreds of athletes from its prestigious athletic teams commented that most male athletes fall between 10% and 20%. He used the hydrostatic weighting method, which is considered the “gold standard”, although its margin for error is plus or minus 3%. If you figure this out, Craig could be as low as 12% or as high as 18%. The reason I'm explaining this is that I'm not so much interested in determining precisely what his body fat truly is, but more so as a relative means of determining how much muscle and fat Craig will be gaining over the next 52 weeks.
Here's the program I've had Craig on for the past five months. He was coming off a period in which he sustained several injuries and bouts of illness. I started this cycle with rep targets in the 10-15 range on the big basic movements to re-establish his motor skills, and recondition his tendons and ligaments for the heavier training to follow. Since then I have brought him slowly down to a 6 rep target.
Lying L fly 1x20 15lbs
Crunch sit-up 1x6, 114lbs
Squat 2x6, 300lbs
Stiff legged dead lift 1x12, 265lbs
Bench press 2x6, 220lbs (one second pause on chest)
Chin 2x6 BW+19lbs
Static barbell hold 2x60 seconds, 219lbs
Finger extension (in rice filled bucket) 1x15
**Reverse calf raise 1x20, 54lbs
Side bend 1x6, 109lbs
Sumo Dead lift 2x6, 340lbs (with pause on floor)
Military press 2x6, 135lbs
Barbell curl 2x6, 100lbs (pause at bottom with no elbow movement)
Close grip bench press 1x6, 200lbs (with pause on chest)
Single leg calf raise 1x15, 25lbs
Wrist curl 1x15, 76lbs
Reverse wrist curl 1x15, 30lbs
** The reverse calf raise is for the tibialis anterior muscle on the front of the shin. I have students perform it to rehabilitate or prevent “shin splints”. The success rate with this is nearly 100%. The exercise is performed with the trainees head, back and glutes against a wall. The feet are about 6-10 inches apart. With the quads flexed, the trainee lifts his toes as high as possible while pivoting on his heels. The toes are held for a second at the top, and slowly lowered to the floor.
This program is to increase his muscle mass and relative strength which will prepare him for the next program which will be designed to keep increasing his mass but will focus on the development of his absolute (one rep) strength. In the next issue I'll explain that program in detail; it employs Micro-loading in a unique way.
The vision Quest part 3
Craig is now up to 234lbs. I have him performing a cycle that alternates weeks of using five, then three, the single rep targets on the squat, bench press, supinated grip chin, dead lift and military press. He Micro-loads appropriately, adding to the weight that he used during the previous week in which he had the same rep target.
Here are his current 5 rep numbers as of April 18, 2001:
L-fly 15lbs x20
Crunch 145lbs x5
Squat 330lbs x5
Stiff legged dead lift 305lbs x10
Bench press 237.5lbs x5 (performed with a pause on the chest)
Supinated grip chin bodyweight +33lbs x5
Static barbell hold 230lbs x60seconds
Finger extension 1x15 (in a bucket of rice)
Reverse calf raise 35lbs x20 -Had to lower weight from previous workout to work on technique
Side bend 120lbs x5
Sumo dead lift 372.5lbs x5
Military press 145lbs x5
Barbell curl 112lbs x5
Close grip bench press 215lbs x6
**Hip belt calf raise 200lbs x10
Wrist curl 90lbs x15
**Craig switched from single leg calf raises to the hip belt calf raise so that he can work on both calves at the same time. This was done to prepare him for using a calf raise machine that was to be delivered at a future date
In my next article I'll give you an update on Craigs body fat level, and break down the composition of his bodyweight gain.
The Vision Quest part 4
Craig is now up to 238lbs which represents only a 4lb gain in the last 8 weeks. He's not eating as he should be or he'd be up at least 8 lbs. He's doing well otherwise, as his strength in all his lifts continues to climb. Although I'd stated in the last issue that I would update you on the composition of his weight gain, I've delayed that till he gains more weight:
I've asked Craig to write up a little piece on his view of things so far. Here it is:
Its a little over the half way point of my personal “vision quest” and I'm pleased with the way that things have gone thus far. I've found the program of rotating weeks of five reps, then threes, then singles to be a fascinating way to train. I find that I'm very motivated and excited to break my old personal records every time I enter my gym to train. I would like to discuss what I feel I've done well so far, and what I've struggled with, to this point.
The good news thus far is that I'm very motivated to train since I'm very focused on my goals- I've them written down and posted on a board in my garage gym- and I'm giving my all in trying to attain them. I feel I'm doing a very good job in maintaining proper biomechanical technique in my exercises, which is imperative as the weights get heavier and heavier and heavier. Incidentally, I've remained completely injury free, which I'm very happy about as I was slightly concerned that the severe hamstring pull I suffered in a flag football game quite some time ago may rear its ugly head and give me some trouble. I'm being very confident in my flexibility, weight training and aerobic work. I've been very happy with my training weights as they continue to climb steadily.
The single progression approach (using micro-loading) has been the backbone of my training, as its been simple and very effective in allowing me to add more and more weight to the bar on a regular basis.
John and I have talked about how effective single progression and micro loading has been, and we've also discussed some very important things to be aware when using it.
Don't become complacent when using single progression, that you limit your progress. For example, lets say that you're adding a pound a week on your bench press (say you're performing 2 sets of 6 reps) and you're past the early build up part of a cycle. Perhaps you could have handled a couple of increments of possible 5 pounds each in your last two workouts as you've been “rewarded” by your body with this strength increase. A one pound increment would not be enough, and you should have added more weight so that you receive the stimulation that you should be getting. How do you know that a single pound was not enough? If rep was not almost impossible to complete, and you have reserve reps in you, you know that you could have added more weight. John has, on occasion had me try to take extra reps above my prescribed reps, to see if I have any reserve reps in me, and to find out if I should be adding more weight. If I do have extra reps, I add a larger “chunk” of weight next time.
I know that I must stay focused, buckle down and pay extreme attention to putting out full effort and concentration in the next six months if I'm to reach the goals I've set. All in all I feel that I have all the components of my training program down pretty well./ The bad news to this point is that I'm still struggling with something that has plagued me throughout my entire weight training career more than anything else- my eating patterns. This is one area that I struggle to be consistent in. The only excuse that I can give is pure laziness and thinking that I can make up for it later- which of course, I can't!
At this point, I finally am giving the same kind of effort to keeping records in my caloric intake log as I do my training log. I wrote down all the different types of meals that I could eat in order to quickly track my calories. Of course, I could make adjustments to those meals as needed. It actually sounds like much more work than it is. Its simply a matter of sitting down and taking a few minutes to do it. If you work out two meals a day for a week, you'll have fourteen meals referenced (assuming that you have that much variety in the meals that you eat). In the future you'll only have to do any major calculations of foods you don't already have in your log, which should be a few. This makes calorie counting east, and it will make tracking your calories in the future much less of a chore. I'm greatly looking forward to the challenge of the next six months.
I was recently sitting around with some friends and one of them was reading a book of quotes. One of my friends mentioned a quote that I really liked. The quote was, “desire will only take you as far as dedication will allow”. A very simple quote, but very true.
The path to getting bigger and stronger is not complicated. For all of you who have tried multiple programs and have gone nowhere in the last couple of years, quit wasting time. I suggest you pick a good program that focuses on making you stronger, thus bigger, and stay with it for at least six months.
The Vision quest part 5
Sometimes life just throws you a curve ball.
Craigs vision quest was interrupted in the early fall when he suffered a severe ankle sprain while playing softball. Due to this injury, Craig couldn't do any form of squatting or dead lifting for 8 weeks, and he couldn't perform any aerobic work. This caused a loss of muscle in his lower body, and interrupted his caloric overloading as he didn't want to continue with a caloric intake that, without lower body weight and aerobics, would only produce a large fat gain.
Here's how he ended the year:
Weight 245lbs (goal was 250+)
Bench press 310lbs (goals was 350lbs)
(with pause on chest)
(started with pause
on chest) 179lbs (goal was 220)
Strict barbell curl 145lbs
One rep strict chin bodyweight plus additional 78lbs
Squat and dead lift are back
in the build up stages easy 300lbs for 10
His training on all these lifts was hampered by the ankle injury. He had to take time off from training these due to the fact that he couldn't put any pressure on that foot which, even though these are “upper body” exercises, they still require the trainee to “push” with hi legs
Even thought this injury all but ended his Vision Quest, he has maintained a great attitude, is working hard to heal his ankle, and has continue with some upper body work. It has also strengthened his resolve for the next year of his training.
Re: John Christy "lost" articles
Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 8:16 pm
The penultimate article- almost finished!
Matt Jones- Updated
To the date of this writing Matt has been under my tutelage for almost seven years. This is an update on his progress since the first piece that I wrote about him. To get the details on the training up to this point please read the article One man's Journey. To get this current piece started I'm going to give you a brief summary of that first article
Matt was your typical gym trainee when we first met. He trained six days a week “bombing and blitzing”, working with several different exercises per body part, totalling between 15 and 20 sets each. Although his goal was to add as much muscle mass as possible, his diet (which he was taught would do the job)would do anything but that. It was made up heavily of amino acid pills and other supplements while keeping his food intake down; to around 2,000 calories daily, so he wouldn't get fat.
None of this ridiculous training philosophy was surprising to me for I knew his mentor. He was a 45-year old gym owner with a track record of over 20 years of steroid use. He only knew one way to get his pupils bigger, routines and diet information that was based on steroid use. Its really unfortunate that, like most trainees Matt was willing to work hard toward adding muscle to his skinny 6-4 140lbs body, but he fell under the guidance of someone who didn't have a clue about how to train a “real trainee”.
Matt and I first met and the grocery store where he worked, and we developed a friendly relationship. At the time I was 250lbs, at 5-10, so Matt noticed that I weight trained. He would follow me around the store while I shopped, and asked questions about my training and diet. He was shocked by the quantity of food I was eating. He was also shocked to hear that the only supplement I took was a multi vitamin and multi mineral tablet. But, what shocked him the most was that I “only” trained 2 or 3 times per week on a handful of basic exercises.
Eventually Matt asked me to set him up on a program. Here it is, and as with all the programs given in this article, only the work sets are listed. Warm up sets are extra.
Bench press 2x8-12
Side bend 1x15
Sumo dead lift 1x15
Military press 2x8-12
Barbell curl 2x8-12
Several months after he started calf and grip work was added
I had Matt use a combination of single progression and double progression methodologies. On the bench press, pull-down, military press and barbell curl, I had Matt train to failure with a weight he could complete 8 or 9 reps with. He was to stay with that weight until he could complete 12 reps while using perfect form. After a 4 minute rest he would perform the second set and had to complete at least 50% of the reps he made in the first set. Once he'd accomplished this he would add 5% of the weight used to the bar, which would bring his reps back down to 8 or 9, from where he'd start the cycle over again. On the other exercises he used single progression; he kept the rep goal fixed but would add a small amount of weight to the bar every workout. Even though I rarely recommend this, I had him train to failure in order to work hard enough to stimulate maximal gains. But since Matt did not get any direct coaching from me to initiate his program it was the only method that I could recommend to make sure he put out enough effort. If he had been under my direct guidance, I'd have based the entire program on single progression.
I advised him to eat good wholesome food five or six times per day. He was to build up the quantity of feeding slowly, so his digestive system would have time to build up the necessary enzymes to process and absorb the increased amount of food. Matt took a multi vitamin/ multi mineral tablet, and eliminated all other supplements. Then I taught him about one of the greatest weight gain supplements ever; milk. He was to work up to one gallon a day, and then up to two. To this day, Matt can drink more milk than anyone I know.
Initial results and setbacks
After nine months, Matt had gained 30lbs and was stronger than he'd ever been. He did it on his own without my direct supervision. He had faith in what I told him to do, followed my advice to a tee and put it into practise. His training continued to go well for several more months and then he experienced setbacks in the form of a debilitating back injury and an intestinal disorder. The combination cause Matt to lose 20lbs and a lot of confidence.
The back injury was the result of unfocused aggression that led to a loss on concentration on maintaining perfect technique. This was brought about by a progression scheme that was too fast. He added weight to his squat at a rate that his body couldn't adapt too. So, he would get real aggressive to make his rep goal, mistakenly believing that his form was still good; when in reality it wasn't and this is the combination (wrong rate of progression and poor form) that led to the back injury.
To say the least, Matt was discouraged. I assured him that we could get things back on track, I changed his program to single progression exclusively, starting with weights that allowed him to hit his goal rep target with a rep or two “in reserve”. This allowed him to really concentrate on perfecting his form. I had him add weight to the bar at a rate his body could adapt to, and after about 6 – 8 week he was pushing with all he had, to make his goal reps (there were now no reps left in reserve), and he was able to maintain perfect form.
At the conclusion of his first two years of proper training, Matt tipped the scaled at 250lbs. He was able to squat below parallel with just under 400lbs, bench press 300lbs, perform lat pulls with over 250, and strict curl 130 for 5 reps. These numbers weren't going to set the world on fire, but for a guy at 6-4 with much less than perfect genetics for strength display (short legs, long torso, long arms) and just two years of proper training, they were pretty darn good. But Matt doesn't make excuses for anything- genetics or otherwise. He concentrates on delivering full bore effort on what he can do.
The update: Trials and Tribulations
As with anyone else, Matt has had his share of ups and down over his training journey. I always try to stress that these events occur to help trainees learn what does and doesn't work for them.
After 2 years under my guidance Matt's training was on a roll. His training continued to progress well for about another year after that. During this time period he had, however, several bouts with his stomach problem in which he would drop a considerable amount of bodyweight in a short period of time. Despite this his bodyweight reached a high of 258lbs, and once again he had gotten much stronger. His program remained virtually unchanged with the exception of the addition of partial rep work in the power rack.
At this time Matt had been working as a strength coach for me for approximately two years. Working as a professional one on one strength coach is a very physically demanding job. HE was working over 60 hours per week, waking most days before 5am. There's a reason I'm telling you this, I'm not trying to say his job is the toughest on the earth- I'm sure many people work as many hours, some even more. My point is that this job (versus when he worked at the grocery store) involved a huge change in his lifestyle if he was to continue to be successful at getting bigger and stronger.
Well, Matt let the rigours of the job take their toll on one of the most important elements of successful training- his diet. He would sacrifice his eating to take care of his job responsibilities. Specifically, he would miss meals, or make food choices that were very poor. The result was a nutrition program that was lacking in quantity and quality. I continually stressed to him that with proper planning and preparation he wouldn't have to sacrifice his eating. He would heed my advice for a while, but then drift back to poor planning and hence poor eating. Matt's weight dropped to about 240lbs after one of the many bouts of sickness that he experienced during this time. It was brought about by continuing to train hard but without the proper nutritional support. His weight would fluctuate between 225 and 238lbs for the next two years; the weight loss was mostly muscle, and Matt looked scrawny. You need to place the utmost importance on nutrition if you expect to get the most out of your training, You must get all the elements of proper training and eating in order. And I can confidently state that most trainees don't put out the effort to get it all right.
Matt wasn't “getting it all right” and he was paying a serious price in the form of limited progress, many injuries and much illness. This vicious cycle continued for about two years. Matt would, however have short stretches in which he did eat properly and would make progress. But then he would let business circumstances get to his eating again, and invariably get sick or hurt. During this entire period Matt would always train with intense focus and drive, but it wouldn't net him good results because his body didn't have the nutrients required to recover and build on.
Another setback... then the revelation
Matt stuck with the basic training program Id originally set forth, with minor modifications here and there. HE had become and very knowledgable and respected strength coach who was very confident in his abilities to design and implement programs for our wide variety of clients and athletes. He would not ask for my direct guidance on his own training program- I think mostly as a matter of pride. Well, at this time I was exploring some of the training philosophies of the old Soviet Union that were reintroduced by Louie Simmons of the West side barbell club. Now, don't get in an uproar and think that I've abandoned sensible training because of the ravings of a steroid using strength coach, I'm a very open minded person and try different methods within a sensible approach that “real trainees” who don't use steroids and who work real jobs, can benefit from. Some of the methods of “the conjugate system” made good physiological sense and I decided to give them a try on one of my strength coaches. Dan (at 6-1 and about 280lbs at the time) is the prototypical mesomorph and would make a good guinea pig fro the trial since he had the genetic make up t handle a higher frequency and volume of training than most trainees.
I don't want to get off track from Matt here, but I need to explain so that you understand what transpired. With a modified version of the conjugate system that I designed, Dan trained for about nine months. Matt got very interested in the trial and decided to try it for himself. I was very concerned about this, because I saw it as an attempt to find “a magic program” that would get him on the path to success when instead he should have been working on his planning and preparation of meals.
Matt practised this method for about seven months and the results were good as far as strength production was concerned for a while, then everything came crashing down. Matt still hadn't made the commitment to eat properly, and his body couldn't handle a sensible two times per week program, so there was no way it was going to handle an experimental approach that had him training four times a week. The result was a loss of another 20lbs. Matt now tipped the scales at 215lbs, with an nervous system that was worn out and would take several months to recover. This was not, however only the result of Matt's poor dietary practises, but an outcome of the program itself!
By the way, the strength results that Dan received from this experiment were less than what he would have with a good old fashioned single progression cycle program utilising micro loading. There are some aspects of the conjugate system that make a good addition to an advanced trainees basic program, but only as a part of that program.
Matt had finally had enough. He made the commitment to get back to the basics and do everything “right”. When he and I met for his yearly goal setting session, he proclaimed that he was going to stick to “Milo” approach and nothing else. What he meant by “Milo” was a reference to Milo of Crotona. Milo carried a calf a given distance each day, in ancient Greece. As the calf grew, little by little, Milo had to carry a progressively bigger load. He, in turn grew bigger and stronger. Milo can be considered the inventor of Micro-loading; the addition of a small amount of weight to the bar on a regular basis while using a fixed rep range.
Matt was committed to planning and preparing his meals so he could get his eating in order every day, no matter what. He also decided to compete in Highland Games competitions, which is something he'd wanted to do for some time. Another reason he wanted to compete was to put additional pressure on himself to do all the things that are necessary to become a respected competitor in a strength sport one of which was to get his bodyweight up to par. He knew that if he didn't do everything right, he would embarrass himself in front of the competition.
Here's the program he developed and I approved:
Workout A- Tuesday
Bench press 2x3, 1x10
Front deltoid raise 1x10
Side deltoid raise 1x10
Rear deltoid raise 1x10
Parallel grip pull-down 2x10
Barbell curl 2x8
The reason for the deltoid isolation work was to prepare Matt's delts for the “throwing” of heavy implements required for Highland Games competitions. The back off set of 10 reps on the bench press was to create additional hypertrophy
Power clean and jerk 2x3
Spread eagle sit-up 2x8
Leg curl 2x6
Back extension 2x10
Crunch sit-up 2x3
Standing calf raise 1x12
(in rice) 1x15
The spread eagle sit-ups are to strengthen to hip flexor muscles that would specifically help Mike with his sport
Medicine ball side throw (9 lb ball) 2x10
Medicine ball w/handle,
one arm throw for distance (16lbs ball) 2x10
Medicine ball w/handle,
throw overhead for height (9lb ball) 2x10
Box hop (5 inch height) 2x12
Farmers walk with dumbbells 3x50 yards
Two of the workouts were designed to build strength and muscle mass specifically for his sport, and the third was a skill strength workout designed to prepare him for the specific skills required by his sport. As Matt got stronger he would use heavier medicine balls, and increase the height of the box hops.
Approximately six months after the start of the program. Matt tipped the scales at 260lbs. The former 140lb high school senior was now a big man, stronger than he'd ever been, and was in the best athletic condition of his life. Throughout that summer he maintained his weight at 260lbs, while enjoying his first season of Highland Games competition. By the way, he didn't embarrass himself, and did quite well for his rookie season.
AS of this writing we've just completed Matt's goal setting session for the upcoming year. I won't share all the minute details with you, but he wants to make a push to get to 270lbs bodyweight by mid-year. At that time we'll evaluate his progress in the Highland Games throwing events, and then possibly make a push for 280lbs. He has also committed to getting better cardiorespiratory condition by increasing his aerobic conditioning time per week. Here's his current program
Leg curl 2x8
Bench press 1x5
Partial bench press 1x3
Parallel grip pull-down 2x8
Crunch sit-up 2x5
Barbell shrug 1x8
Static grip work 1x30-60 seconds
Power clean and jerk 3x1
Push press 2x1
Barbell curl 1x8
Rear deltoid raise 1x10
Front and rear neck work 1x15 each
Reverse back extension 1x15
56lb weight throw for distance * 1x2
28lbs weight throw for distance * 1x2
56lb weight throw for height * 1x2
16lb and 22lb hammer throw for distance 1x2
Stone put (17lb stone thrown for distance 1x2
Sheaf toss for height 1x2
Caber toss (caber's range from 13' 105lbs
to 17' and 130lbs) 1x2
*These weights are attached to a big “ring” which the competitor grips when throwing
The “hammer” is a lead ball on the end of a 50-inch long stick. A “sheaf” is a 20 lbs burlap bag filled with twine and thrown with a three-prong pitchfork.
Matt takes two days rest between each workout (three workouts every nine days). The frequency of his workouts was based on what it would take him to recover and gain maximum benefits from, instead of just trying to make them work within a seven day schedule. Workout C which is his skill-strength workout was changed from using various medicine balls and plyometrics to simulate the skills of Highland games competition to the use of the actual implements because Matt had purchased them. This workout stresses him systemically as much as his other traditional weight workouts. He performs aerobic work after his two weight workouts, for 20-30 minutes.
You'll notice that during his previous three-way divided program that Matt was not using the barbell squat. This was because he was hitting the leg structures hard twice a week between the power cleans and dead-lifts on one day, and the box hops and Farmers walk on the other. At the time he thought that combination was more specific and applicable to his sport. He found that wasn't true.
The major lesson to learn from Matt's journey is that no matter how hard you train, and how dedicated you are to training consistently, your progress will be severely hampered if you don't provide nutritional support. Let me make another thing evident. Remember that Matt has trained under my direct guidance for the past 5 years, and no matter how much preaching and prodding I did about his poor meal planning, he wouldn't respond. This proves that the motivation had to come from within. No matter how busy you are if you want to accomplish something bad enough, you'll find a way. So, stop making excuses, and plan ahead and prepare your meals.
I haven't worked with anyone who loves to train more than Matt. He rarely misses workouts, and when he trains he generates ferocious intensity, and has tremendous focus on technique. He's now made the commitment to master all the components necessary to reap tremendous results, and I'm confident that throughout the next year he'll have great training success.
Re: John Christy "lost" articles
Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:01 pm
Thanks Tom, tremendous work writing all these out. If you put these routines on some forums there would be a lot of guys letting you know in no uncertain terms how they could not possibly work. Lost a good man in John Christy,i wonder if his brother is still training?BTW how is the squat coming along? I expect you are fired up after watching the Dr.Ken video.