My Dad Bod Rebuttal

Does anyone else feel like we’re living 21 Jump Street (the new one not the fantastic TV show I grew up with)???  Like everything we knew to be true is now false. What was once cool is now looked upon with disdain.

The Dad Bod is a sign of the times.

In 2013 women were attacking Maria Kang because she didn’t accept having kids as an excuse for not being fit.  Now we have women holding men with soft, flabby physiques in high-esteem, in part because it helps with their own self-esteem.  And the overwhelming majority of guys are more than happy to oblige because they now have a legit excuse to be a lazy lump of shit. seth-rogen1_3288147b   If you haven’t read the short article written by Mackenzie Pearson of Clemson where the dad bod phenomenon was first unveiled I suggest checking it out.  However everything you need to know about the dad bod can be summed up by this quote from the article:

The dad bod says, “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.”

With all due respect to Ms. Pearson I have no problem with her taste in guys.  Even if his body closely resembles that of a slug.  What I’m disturbed by is the mentality attached to it.

It seems that raising one’s standards has become so painful and exhaustive that we as a society have decided it’s just easier to lower standards across the board.

Why strive to be the best version of yourself when everyone else says it’s perfectly acceptable to be average or less?  It’s as though we’ve lost all sense of pride. I’ve always believed that you are either growing or dying.  You’re climbing or sliding. There is no maintaining because everything around you is moving fast-forward whether you like it or not.  But it seems there now is a way to avoid the climb.

Blow the top off the mountain!

Sorry, but I can’t except that. And I thank God that He has surrounded me with people who would never accept that mentality either. So for all the ridiculous dad bod photos floating around here is my rebuttal.  These are just a few of my dad friends and their fit dad bods…

fit dad, dad bod, natural bodybuilderTop natural bodybuilders Shevon Cunningham (DFAC World Champion) and Wil Usher with their boys.

 Master’s Pro Natural Bodybuilder Eugene Ring with son and grandson.

fit dad, dad bod, Dave(2)Dave Wilson, C-level business executive and dad who has more excuses than most to be out of shape but n

fit dad, dad bod, natural bodybuilder, powerlifter fit dad, dad bod, natural bodybuilder, powerlifter
Bodybuilding coach and Powerlifter John Gorman hitting the gym with this boys.

fit dad, dad bod, natural bodybuilderThe dynamic natural bodybuilding father and son duo of Shawn Wolfe and Sean Coleman.

dad bod, fit dad, natural bodybuilder Francesco(2)Italian Natural Bodybuilding Champion and my good friend Francesco Paleari.

Natural bodybuilder, dad bod, fit dad, Mike Lipowski IMG_4852
Yours truly with my 11 month old son.

fit dad, dad bod, natural bodybuilder fit dad, dad bod, natural bodybuilder
Natural bodybuilding pro Vic Cuzzupe and his baby girl.  

I realize not every man aspires to look like or be a natural bodybuilder and that’s all well and good.  I am not implying that every man should.  We all live under a different set of circumstances and priorities.  But the glorification of the dad bod all over the internet is nothing more than a race to the bottom.

What’s next?  Will being broke and jobless be the new “cool” in 2016?

I applaud all the guys out there who refuse to accept the new dad bod standard and who train their ass off to be healthy and fit for their family. It’s the example they are setting for kids, not their physique, that is a testament of their character. Take a bow fit dads!

Unconventional Bodybuilding (Pt.3)

Here are the final two pieces of conventional bodybuilding wisdom that will prevent you from realizing your best physique.

Unless you decide to take the unconventional road.

#4 – You Need to Use a lot of Supplements

I guess that depends on what you define as “a lot”.  Personally, I use protein powders, take a Shaklee Vitalizer pack (multi-vitamin, Omegas, probiotic, and B vitamins), and creatine and BCAA’s during my competition prep.  For a pre-workout shot of energy I typically drink a bold black coffee or I’ll use a pre-workout drink if my friend Rich Fitter has sent me any samples of the latest and greatest.

Whey protein powder, supplements, bodybuilding

The truth is, many top natural bodybuilders (not that I’m one of them) don’t take many supplements.  Most use what would be considered “the essentials” which is essentially what I outlined above.  But of course there are those that do consume virtually anything found on a supplement stores shelf if they think it will add an inkling of more muscle or burn more fat.

protein powder. Supplements for bodybuilders

More often than not, those with the best grasp on their training and nutrition utilize far fewer supplements than individuals that do not.  The conventional—and outright stupid—outlook on supplements is that results can be found in a pill or powder.

As the lyrics from Survivor’s song in Rocky IV so eloquently points out, “There’s no easy way out…there’s no shortcuts home”.

Unconventional bodybuilding would have you thinking and acting like a researcher or scientist.  And like any great researcher you need to control for as many variables as possible before introducing a new one.  That means spending months if not years getting your diet and training dialed-in so that if some new revolutionary supplement is added to the mix you can know for sure whether or not it actually made a difference.

#5 – You Have to Dehydrate to Show More Muscle Definition

This might be THE most misunderstood aspects of bodybuilding even for seasoned bodybuilders.

Answer this question for me: How much of your muscle is made up of water?

That’s right, 75%.  When you deprive or deplete yourself of water the first place the water leaves is the muscles.  Not underneath the skin like most broscience knuckleheads think.

I’ll tell you in a moment the unconventional method for getting water out from under the skin and it doesn’t require the use of diuretics.

But first…

Water makes up three quarters of our muscles size so our goal is to keep as much water in the muscles as we can.

Water, bodybuilding, supplements

The way to regulate water inside and outside the cells is through carbohydrates and sodium/potassium balance.

Each gram of stored carbohydrate holds 2.7 grams of water.  That means the higher the concentration of glucose in a muscle the larger or more fuller that muscle will appear as a consequence of holding more water inside of it.

This is why people who undertake a very low carb diet find their muscles looking flat or have difficulty sustaining a good pump when they train. Without a high concentration of glycogen in the muscles, water has nothing to latch onto.

However this doesn’t mean you can consume copious amounts of carbohydrates either.  The muscles can only hold a certain amount of glucose at any one time.  Exactly how much depends on your body type, muscular size, metabolic rate, activity level, training demands, and what you are accustomed to.

bodybuilding, carbohydrates, supplements

If more glucose is present than what the muscles can store, water now has no place to reside within the muscles so it winds up outside of the cells and underneath the skin.  This situation is commonly referred to as “spill-over” and is a bodybuilder’s biggest fear and the reason they erroneously cut their water intake days prior to competition.

The unconventional approach to carbohydrate intake.

A good starting point is 1.25-1.75g/lb. of fat free mass.  Those who are highly active, have a high metabolic rate, are insulin sensitive, or find their muscles appearing “flat” will need to adjust their carbohydrates higher.  However it is best to methodically make these increases so as to determine the ideal amount for maintaining fullness without spillover.

The other regulating factor in achieving the cellophane skin look is sodium and potassium.

Sodium regulates extracellular fluid activity.  Potassium is responsible for controlling intracellular fluid activity.

Salt shaker

What does conventional bodybuilding logic say?  Drop your sodium so you hold less subcutaneous water, and if you really want to hit a home run pop some potassium pills!!!

When sodium is too low it signals the release of the hormone Aldosterone which causes the body to reabsorb and prevent the excretion of sodium which then results in water retention OUTSIDE THE CELLS!  The more sodium is decreased the more Aldosterone is released and the smoother and more waterlogged the muscles begin looking.

The secret unconventional approach to subcutaneous water excretion is (drum roll please)….

Keep your water intake as high as possible (at least 1 – 1.5 ounces per pound of bodyweight) and keep sodium and potassium intake…NORMAL.

  • 1,500-4,500 mg Na
  • 1,500-2,000 mg K

That’s the secret recipe.  It’s not a trick, it’s not magic.  It is a predictable approach that will leave you looking as tight as a pair of skinny jeans on a Hipster.  Presuming you are lean enough.

That’s right, none of this will make any sort of a difference unless your body-fat is low enough to where you already have significant muscle definition.  Put simply, unless you have shredded shoulders, separation in your quads, or something that at least resembles six pack abs, all the manipulation of water, Na, K, and carbs won’t give you these things.


By and large bodybuilding is an illusion.  But it’s an illusion that’s created by being as lean as possible while retaining as much muscle as possible while at your leanest.  As mentioned at the very start of this series, you don’t simply grow into the incredibly shredded and jacked condition of a bodybuilder.   It’s an endeavor that takes time, patience, and the willingness to turn your back on the herd mentality and take the unconventional approach.

Since we opened this series with a quote I figured we should close with on as well.

When you’re used to being prepared to reject conventional wisdom, it leaves you open to learn more.
– Mayim Bialik

The Least Understood Stage of Fat-Loss

fat-loss, body-fat, natural bodybuildingWe all recognize that on some level fat-loss is more of a mental challenge than a physical one.  Typically, if you follow a plan you lose body-fat.  The trouble is following the plan.

One of the stumbling blocks that I haven’t heard any coaches or nutritionists talk about (which doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been talked about) that is common among nearly every individual—natural bodybuilder or every day Jane—is best summarized by a recent conversation I had with a female client who is prepping for her first natural bodybuilding contest.

She’s made incredible strides with fat-loss in the past 5 months.  But despite being her all-time leanest and extremely well defined by competition standards she said, “My body looked better when I was a few pounds heavier.” 

Similarly I’ve been told the same from non-bodybuilding clients who although overweight, reached a certain point in their fat-loss where their body looked—for lack of a better term—“awkward”, compared to being just a few pounds heavier.  Mind you they were still overweight at this point.

And I’ve noticed the same of myself during competition prep.  There typically comes a time early on in my prep when despite being leaner I’m not lean in the areas I need it most resulting in that “awkward” appearance.

This is a critical juncture for anyone losing weight because when you’re at this stage it is very easy to abandon what you’re doing.

I mean heck, if you don’t look as good as you did just a couple of pounds heavier, why keep pushing to lose more, right?

However this is the time when you have to ignore the mirror and keep pushing forward.  It’s an unfortunate fact that we lose body-fat indiscriminately.

You don’t get to pick and choose where fat comes off first.  And even more unfortunately, where you want it to come off most is usually where it comes off last.  This is the real culprit and reason for the disproportionate appearance being discussed.

So what’s the point?

The point is, don’t quit!

Don’t allow a momentary inconvenience or displeasure with your appearance prevent you from attaining the physique you desire most.  Celebrate this stage in your fat-loss because it indicates what you really want is right around the corner.

Annihilate Physical and Mental Plateaus in Your Training

Success is the enemy of progress.

From the time we decide to pursue a goal until the time we achieve it we experience tremendous growth. In the world of bodybuilding and fitness we have the added benefit of that growth not only being mental and emotional, but physical as well.

The trouble is…

Achieving our desired outcome can put the proverbial breaks on further gains.

The great business coach Dan Sullivan referred to this phenomenon in his book, How the Best Get Better, as, “The ceiling of complexity”.

But since we’re not talking business let’s look at an example from the standpoint of exercise.

We decide one day that we need to dial our training up a notch.  We look to a challenging exercise like squats and we say to ourselves, “I’m going add thirty pounds to my personal best on this exercise no matter what it takes”.

squats 3

Over the next 7, 8, 9 weeks you make steady progress toward your goal.  You’re in the gym grinding, you’re constantly analyzing your form and looking for ways to overcome your weak points, you’re slugging back your protein shakes and carbing up before your workouts, and making sure to get plenty of beauty sleep.

Then, on week 10, you do it.  You smash your previous bests as you hoist thirty more pounds on your squat.  You’re glaring back at the old you and laugh at what a wimp he was.

The accomplishment was great, but here comes the ceiling of complexity.

Over the next couple of weeks things are great as you post videos of your new found strength all over Facebook and collect a ton of “Likes”.  Your motivation is still very high.

But gradually things start to get stale.  Motivation is waning and you are no longer doing all the little things that helped propel you to the top of the mountain.  Instead of standing at the peak you settle on a plateau.

Plateau Point sign

As frustrated as plateaus make us there is solution for overcoming them, and the ceiling of complexity.

Set your sights on a greater goal BEFORE achieving the original one.

A friend recently asked, How do I mentally and physically work through plateaus in training and progress. Specifically when trying to maintain muscle mass and strength while also cutting body-fat.”

Losing body-fat while maintaining muscle and strength is hard and there are a lot of moving parts and details to be addressed.  But it is something many bodybuilders routinely accomplish.

The answer to working mentally and physically through plateaus is to avoid them altogether (unless you’ve planned for down period.).  In order to evade plateaus you need to keep growing as Dan Sullivan would say.

You only grow when you are intensely focused on an objective.  The goal is what keeps you mentally in the game, and that translates to keeping you physically in it as well.

Some may view this as Goal Setting 101 but it goes well beyond that.

It’s about anticipating success and guarding against its ugly side-effect…complacency.  Complacency is what results in plateaus, and plateaus result in relapses.

Bruce Lee put it best when he said,

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life.  There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and yo must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

The Truth about Missed Workouts and Detraining on Muscle & Strength Gains

He felt panic stricken.  What was he going to do?  He spent at least seven hours a week, every week for the last eleven months working to increase is bench and add more muscle.  At nineteen years old he was at his peak (so he thought) and this upcoming week was about to squash all the work he’d put in.  The same thing happened to him last year during the same week so you thought he would have learned by now.

It was June and he was home from college for the summer.  As a lacrosse player, he loved the sport but loved training more.  The hours spent in the gym smashing personal bests gave him more satisfaction than scoring goals.

That’s what made this week so hard.  There would not be a single minute for him to spend in the gym.  The lacrosse camp he was a coach and counselor at for this one week each June was massive—thousands of kids.  And with so many kids running around on and off the field there was not a spare minute in the day.

Not being able to train ate way at him every day.

He was excited when day six finally arrived.  Time to go home!

He walked in the door said a quick hello to his parents and within minutes he was back out the door, in the car, and heading to the gym.

Gym time

He got under the bench for his first couple of warm-up sets.

“Whoa, that felt easy” he thought to himself.

And then he moved onto his working set.  With one-eighty-five on the bar he was expecting to push out his usual six reps.  But after he completed eight it hit him that the week off didn’t hurt him one bit.

Not the type to put two and two together he just thought how “lucky” he was to have not lost any strength.  Never mind that he just bested his last four bench press workouts.

What can I say, I’m a slow learner.  :-)

People get neurotic about their training.

Missed workout

We all agree, a healthy commitment to exercise and nutrition is great.  But when a commitment turns into an obsession—usually in the case of body dysmorphic disorders—it’s never a pretty sight.  I would not go so far to say I suffered from a disorder (I always maintained some sensibility about how I looked) mine was more of a compulsion.

I worked hard, earned my gains and yearned for more.  I would guess you and I are probably similar that way.  It’s very normal to be concerned that too much time away from the gym will result in regression.


Is all the unrest we feel about time away from the gym warranted?

If we rely on the empirical evidence the answer is, no.

If rely on the research, the answer is still, no.

Research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in 2013 (Ogasawara R1, Yasuda T, Ishii N, Abe T.) [1] compared the effects of a periodic resistance training (PTR) program with those of a continuous resistance training (CTR) program on muscle size and function.

The CTR group trained continuously over a 24-week period, whereas the PTR group performed three cycles of 6-week training (or retraining), with 3-week detraining periods between training cycles. After an initial 6 weeks of training, increases in cross-sectional area (CSA) of the triceps brachii and pectoralis major muscles and maximum isometric voluntary contraction of the elbow extensors and 1-RM were similar between the two groups.


In the CTR group, muscle CSA and strength gradually increased during the initial 6 weeks of training. However, the rate of increase in muscle CSA and 1-RM decreased gradually after that.


In the PTR group, increase in muscle CSA and strength during the first 3-week detraining/6-week retraining cycle were similar to that in the CTR group during the corresponding period. However, increase in muscle CSA and strength during the second 3-week detraining/6-week retraining cycle were significantly higher in the PTR group than in the CTR group.


Thus, overall improvements in muscle CSA and strength were similar between the groups. The results indicate that 3-week detraining/6-week retraining cycles result in muscle hypertrophy similar to that occurring with continuous resistance training after 24 weeks.

Another study from 2000; Neuromuscular adaptation during prolonged strength training, detraining and re-strength-training in middle-aged and elderly people (Häkkinen K1, Alen M, Kallinen M, Newton RU, Kraemer WJ) [2] provides further evidence that 3 weeks of not training will have an inconsequential impact on muscular size and strength.

According to the researchers findings:  Short-term detraining (3 weeks) led to only minor changes, while prolonged detraining (24 weeks) resulted in muscle atrophy and decreased voluntary strength…

Barring injury or some traumatic event anyone moderately committed to maintaining their fitness is unlikely to miss 24 straight weeks of training.

More is to be gained, not lost, from detraining.

Most encouraging about this study and confirmed by others [3,4] is that there is no inhibition of muscular or strength adaptations upon returning to training.  But all of us life-long lifters already recognized this, we call it “Muscle Memory.”

In fact in many instances results upon re-training after a week or two of detraining exceeded previous bests.  This was my experience at nineteen after returning from a [forced] week off from training.  And the scenario has played out hundreds of other times with personal training clients who—fearful that the past 4 months of progress would be wiped away by their upcoming two week vacation—would come back stronger and sometimes looking better.

We shouldn’t be surprise when we consider the effect continuous training can have on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), as well as how it can blunt anabolic signaling.  Taking a week or more off can help all of our physiological systems fully recover and desensitize us to training.  All of which are necessary for long-term gains.

Periodization has shown us the way.

As someone who is focused primarily on muscle hypertrophy and building functional strength, and not demonstrating strength (as in the case of a powerlifter or O-lifter), I’m not a big fan of Western Periodization.  However, conceptually, it’s spot on.  Especially when you view it through the prism of the GAS.


Periods of exercise stress must be followed by periods of rest so the body can overcompensate for and adapt to the stress.  In the same way Western Periodization breaks up your training into cycles that focus on a particular adaptation, you want to have specified periods of increased or varied training demands accompanied by periods of lesser demands and layoffs.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, almost to the point of sounding like an iPod stuck on repeat—building muscle is metabolically demanding.  Our body will seek out any way, other than building muscle, to increase strength and contend with the demands placed on it through exercise.

That’s why a linear training and recovery model is only beneficial to advanced trainees striving to maintain their gains.

The more our intensity, volume, frequency, method of rep/set performance, exercise selection, etc. remains the same the more sensitized we become to it.   The stubborn nineteen year old couldn’t wrap his thick skull around the idea that time away from the gym is good for gains.


But that’s not to say there are not legitimate concerns about detraining.

The two that most quickly jumps to mind for those aesthetically ambitious is fat accumulation resulting from diminished activity and a loss of muscle fullness.

However these are concerns that can easily be addressed and rectified:

To avoid fat gain requires a simple recalculation in caloric intake.  Accounting for the calories you won’t be burning through exercise while remaining at or below your maintenance levels will impede any potential fat storage. …Simply solution to a simple problem.

Next, loss of muscle fullness is the result of glycogen degradation.  Meaning your muscles are not overcompensating for the glycogen depleted during muscular contractions.  This trend reverses immediately upon returning to training.

If you’re taking a week off from training this change is nearly unnoticeable.  But if you plan to take more than one week off from purposeful training then you might implement one or two very light workouts a week in which you get a moderate pump, deplete some glycogen, but do not disrupt systemic recovery.

Aside from unease about potential aesthetic deviations the only other observed negative effect in some studies (and validated through personal experience) is a short lived decrease in metabolic conditioning.  Upon resuming training subjects/clients fatigued after fewer exercises than is typical or required slightly longer rest between exercises.  In my experience most trainees regain their previous level of conditioning after 1-4 workouts.

One step back and two steps forward.

As much evidence as there is to support detraining it should be understood that it is not a license to fly by the seat of your pants.  These periods must be planned.  They should be built around periods of heavy demands so you can take advantage of heightened anabolic signaling (5) and desensitization to training on the frontend (like when you were a beginner and made rapid gains) and unimpeded recovery on the backend so you can overcompensate and adapt to the demands.

The question is: are you willing to give little in order to get a little more?


1. Ogasawara R1, Yasuda TIshii NAbe T.  Comparison of muscle hypertrophy following 6-month of continuous and periodic strength training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Apr;113(4):975-85. doi: 10.1007/s00421-012-2511-9. Epub 2012 Oct 6. 

2.  Häkkinen K1, Alen MKallinen MNewton RUKraemer WJNeuromuscular adaptation during prolonged strength training, detraining and re-strength-training in middle-aged and elderly people.  Eur J Appl Physiol. 2000 Sep;83(1):51-62.

3. . Ogasawara R1, Yasuda TSakamaki MOzaki HAbe T.  Effects of periodic and continued resistance training on muscle CSA and
in previously untrained men. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2011 Sep;31(5):399-404. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-097X.2011.01031.x. Epub 2011 May 31

4.  Bruusgaard JCJohansen IBEgner IMRana ZAGundersen KMyonuclei acquired by overload exercise precede hypertrophy and are not lost on detraining.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Aug 24;107(34):15111-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0913935107. Epub 2010 Aug 16

5.  Ogasawara R1, Kobayashi KTsutaki ALee KAbe TFujita SNakazato KIshii NmTOR signaling response to resistance exercise is altered by chronic resistance training and detraining in skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2013 Apr;114(7):934-40. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01161.2012. Epub 2013 Jan 31


Thanks for reading this far.  If you found this information useful please share it.  I’d greatly appreciate it!  :)

Making Sure Your Fitness Results Last…Forever

You and I, we do it for the results.  Why else would we do it?  Some people think about being fit.  We hunt fitness down and capture it like prey.

And when we do there is nothing better than when…

Fat has been lost…

Muscle has been built…

Strength has been gained…

And a new attitude rules the day.

Getting to Where You Want to Go

We know that not a single small improvement is made without a tremendous amount of work.  The fact is, if you want good results your training, nutrition, and lifestyle choices have to be great.

If you want great results they need to be outstanding.  If you want outstanding results you need to crush your self-limiting beliefs and be relentlessly consistent with your outstanding actions.

When you’ve worked your way from where you were to where you are—assuming where you are is better than where you were—then there is only one thing that can bring you down.  Regression.

When You Arrive, ‘Burn the Boats’

The only way to ensure you never sink back to the place you once were, the place you worked so hard to get away from, is by cutting off all ties to that place.

The phrase ‘Burn the Boats’ is one of my favorites.  (I’m pretty sure it, along with an image will wind up a future tattoo somewhere on my body.)  It stems from the legend of Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes who in the early 1500’s defeated the Aztecs in Mexico.

He and his men made a commitment to do what no one before them was able to do.  As legend goes Cortes got his men to commit by burning their ships.

Victory, the Only Option

 Cortes made it so there was no turning back.  It was either win or die.

Commitment is nothing more than a decision.  You have to decide in your mind to the ‘Burn the Boats’ and eliminate any prospect of retreating back to where you came from.  You need to leave the old you behind.

Even if you’re not yet where you want to be.  Burning the boats means you can only move forward.

It’s a Mindset

Though it might not be a life or death situation like it was for Cortes and his men. Implanting the idea that it is (and it very well could be for some) can have a significant impact on your subconscious.

You’d be surprised what you can do.

And if burning the boats in your mind doesn’t work then try burning your clothes!  If you have no larger sizes to fall back on then you’ll always have to find a way to stay in the smaller ones you’ve got on now.

Why You Should Train Like a Bodybuilder Even Though You Don’t Want to Look Like One

I’m writing this for you, the mom, dad, man, woman, busy professional, student, and slacker (J/k I know you’re not a slacker. Slackers don’t read my stuff) who seek out the help of personal trainers and to my personal training brethren who routinely have to talk people off the ledge when it comes to training heavy and hard…like a bodybuilder.  The statement: “I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder” drives me crazy.  I understand where it comes from which drives me even crazier than when my wife insists on plucking my eyebrows.  (I don’t care what women say, that shit hurts.  I’d rather sit through 6 hours of tattooing.)

The conversation when a new client comes in—especially the ladies—typically goes like this after I’ve explained our inclination for training heavy and hard relative to their abilities (I’ll skip on all the niceties and small talk):

Client:  But I don’t want look like a bodybuilder.

Me:  You won’t…you can’t.

Client: Yeah but I see those women/guys on the magazines and I don’t to get that.

Me: Let me ask you.  Are you currently taking steroids, testosterone, or growth hormone that you obtained from a black market dealer?

Client: No

Me: Then I think you’re safe.  Genetically speaking 99.6% of people don’t have the genetic aptitude to get huge.  They don’t have the muscle fiber make up, muscle length, or in the case of women, the testosterone levels needed to pack on mass. Just look at all the teenage and twenty-something guys whose testosterone levels are shooting through that are TRYING to look like the guys in the mags never get there without PED’s.

(I point to a picture of me in bodybuilding competition shape)


Client:  That’s you!

Me:  Geez, don’t act so surprised.  Yes, that’s me about 10 pounds lighter than I am right now. 

Client: You’d never know you’re a bodybuilder.

Me:  (Think to myself: “Thanks again for reinforcing my bodybuilding inferiority complex,)  If you walked down the street and ran into one natural bodybuilder or physique competitor after another at best you would say they look like they’re in really good shape and that’s how you want to look.  Nothing freakish or unusual about them, just extremely shredded when it’s time to step on stage. 

Bodybuilding is an illusion.  Exceptionally low body fat levels and bright lights shining down on the body help muscles stand out and appear more pronounced.  Once the shirt and pants go back on they look like “normal” people (but we know even natural competitors are anything but normal).  Even the biggest and baddest natural competitors look like they could be your exceptionally fit co-worker or friend. 


The purpose of Bodybuilding

While people might not want to look like bodybuilders, training like one—from the standpoint of heavy loads and high intensity—is what results in the toned (I freakin’ hate that buzz word), and fit look they are aiming for and developing greater functional strength (dammit that’s two buzz words in one sentence, I’m going to have to take a shower after I’m done writing this).  So long as exercises are performed under controlled conditions with exceptional execution, minimizing ballistic movements, then training like a bodybuilder will do more to prevent injuries than cause them.  (If you want increase your chance of injury from lifting just do some of that silly shit people do on the Bosu and fit ball.)  The increased strength, muscular endurance and muscle development you achieve through “bodybuilding” will have a greater impact on more aspects of health and fitness than any other form of exercise.

In a nutshell, bodybuilding is all about improving your quality of life.  And besides if you’re not actively trying to “build” your “body” what the heck are you exercising for?

Different Way to Approach #Exercise

There’s literally hundreds of exercise methods, and every one of em’ has its own “spin”. Which one is right for you depends on your ability to answer the question, “What’s your outcome?”.

I believe in implementing various training methods to achieve specific results but anything put into practice is done with a single strategy in mind.  Check it out in this video I made for you.  (6 minute view)

The Indisputable Principles of Exercise and How the Experts Screw Them Up

I have nothing against “fitness experts.”  In fact I regularly seek out, read, listen to, and pick the brains of people (not in a Walking Dead sort of way) that I consider to be experts in various areas of exercise because in quiet moments of self-reflection I realize that I don’t know it all.  Hard to believe I know.  I like hearing different points of view, especially the diametrically opposing ones.  As Stephen Covey put it in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek to understand.”  If I’m able to understand their point of view then I’ll either glean new insight and apply it to what I do, ooooooooor I’ll bang my head against a wall thirty-two times as a preventative measure to ensure the information doesn’t settle into my brain.

Arguing Over Exercise Principles

It’s really simple.  Every workout program ever designed has these four principles present; intensity (as in effort, not a percentage of 1RM), volume (some number of sets), load (any resistance being used or % of 1RM) and frequency (scheduled occurrence).  The way some experts talk about these principles individually you would think that one holds the key to success and the others should sit back and remain silent.  And it comes from both sides of the aisle, as well as the front and back of the room.

Experts dedicate an inordinate amount of time to the study and practice of what they do which is what makes them experts in a particular area.  But it can also blind them from everything else going on around them.

The HIT experts bang on the volume guys for wimping out on their sets as soon as discomfort sets in lieu of performing more sets.  The Volume Guys laugh at the HITters for spending more time talking about training than they do actually training.  Both point to studies done by people on their side of the aisle to substantiate their position.  Each misses the valid aspects of what the other does.  All agree that Crossfit is completely nuts.  And anyone professionally involved in fitness who is over the age of 70 can prove that none of this new shit is actually new, they were doing it in the 50’s.

Where the Fitness Experts Blow It

How the principles listed above are arranged—the measure of each ingredient—is determined by three other components; S.A.I.D. (specific adaptations to imposed demands), diminishing returns, and the mother of them all, the sole determinant of why or why not a program is suitable, individualism.  For any fitness expert to make blanket statements about theirs being a superior approach is naive and arrogant. It assumes that intensity, volume, load, and frequency exist in a vacuum and are uninfluenced by S.A.I.D., diminishing returns, and individualism, as well as other external factors.  They fail to recognize that the only superior approach is the one that’s most appropriate at that particular time for that particular individual because of his/her particular circumstance.

Exercise Principle Pimps

Most fitness experts mean well.  I sincerely believe that.  But well-meaning doesn’t excuse you from pimping out certain exercise principles to push YOUR preferred way of training.  We all have a “home base.”  But it doesn’t mean you cannot and should not explore things outside of that circle if it could mean better results for you or those you provide professional services to.

Though no one likes to think in broad terms that’s precisely what the best experts do.  They understand all the principles and how they interrelate, and how they should be adjusted according to an individual’s current physical and mental state. In society we have to abide by many laws not just the ones we prefer.  Exercise is no different.

You Can’t Achieve Your Physical Best Without Understanding This…

Generally speaking we’re all the same.  Same physical structure, same bodily functions.  But the similarities between you and I likely end there.  My blood pressure was 120/70 every time it’s been taken in the past 3 years, I burn fat relatively easy but I’m lucky if I can squeeze out a 0.25 lb. increase in muscle mass from year to year,  I work about 80-90 hrs a week and, I’m 36 years old.  How do you compare?

Possibly the same in some areas, likely different in them all, and this is only a small sampling of physical characteristics we could compare.  Our abilities and limitations vary across a broad spectrum, as do our requirements to improve, maintain, or decelerate the loss of muscle, strength and functional ability.

Inherent traits make us unique.  Think of the people in high school who were categorized as “the brain”, “the jock”, or “the artist”.  Each got his/her label because they naturally excelled in a particular area or skill.  But as “natural” as they were in that one area they likely had to work hard to achieve average success in others—if they achieve success at all.

I don’t call attention to this to shoot down your dreams of physical Superstardom.  Fact is most people never actualize their true potential and none of us really know what our limits are.  The reason why I bring this up is because people and personal trainers put too much focus on the general—broad brush stroke—training practices when they should be focused on determining individual specific needs.


There is a need for general training routines since there is no way of knowing exactly what a persons individual needs are at the start.  General routines set the foundation and can be used as a benchmark to compare future results and progress.  A personal trainer for example might have a basic routine they start everyone on for a number of weeks or months and depending upon the trainees results and feedback, they begin to alter their workouts to better align with their individual needs.

The trouble is when people continuously jump from one workout method of the month to the next, and follow routines that were designed for someone other than themselves.  Instead they should be analyzing their individual characteristics to determine the proper direction of their training.  Approaching training (and nutrition) this way can literally save years of wasted effort.

Bell curve

Though we all don’t have the superior physical abilities to be a champion physique athlete or model nearly everyone has the potential to achieve a relatively strong, lean, and muscular physique if their training, nutrition, and lifestyle are congruent with these objective and satisfies their individual needs.  So where do you currently reside on the fitness Bell Curve above?  Where does each of your major muscle groups reside on the curve?  What does it say about your receptiveness and tolerance to exercise?  How can you adjust your training to address these individual characteristics and maximize results?


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