Q: I read that you used some different training styles as you prepared for your IFBB pro physique debut. Your photos looked fantastic! Can you go into detail about how you trained? I’m older and working around some tendinitis. I’d like to see exactly what you did.
A: Yes, due to the slow recovery from my shoulder surgery, I was forced to alter my training dramatically. My plan for the year was to compete in pro men’s physique at the IFBB Europa Super Show on August 16 and 17. When I began my precontest training in early May, my right shoulder (on which I had surgery in October 2012) was still not doing very well. It had healed enough that I could do almost every exercise, but the weights I was handling on chest and shoulder exercises were pretty pathetic! I had quite a bit of atrophy in my right pec, delts, traps and arm, and I needed to come up with a way to regain that muscle while not re-injuring the joint.
What I formulated was a combination of Steve Holman’s 4X training, straight sets for high reps and some workouts in which I applied blood-flow-restriction training. In addition, since I couldn’t push my upper body very hard, I figured that I didn’t need as much recovery time, so I trained chest, back and shoulders three times per week. I was able to train legs with normal intensity, which would mean hitting them just once a week; however, since my leg training was going extremely well, I added a second leg day in order to spur my metabolism. I didn’t need my arms to be as big for physique, so I cut back on the volume of my biceps training. As stabilizing my shoulder during curls hurt significantly, it was a wise move for that reason as well.
For those who are not familiar with 4X training, here are the basics. You select a weight with which you can normally crank out 15 reps and perform four sets of 10 with only 30-second rests between sets. Normally, the first set is very easy and the rest period seems long. The second set gets challenging, the third and fourth are excruciating and the rest periods seem nonexistent! Take two to three minutes between exercises to let the lactic acid subside a bit while you load your weights for the next exercise.
I find it’s a good idea to wear your headphones, turn up your music, and discourage chit-chat by not making eye contact with anyone. With 4X training there’s no time for it.
The 4X method was great because I could use fairly light weights but still get terrific training effects. The other cool thing is that the workouts didn’t take very long.
For my straight-set/high-rep workouts I usually performed 20 to 30 reps per set and rested 1 1/2 to two minutes between sets. As many readers know, I like to do some superhigh reps on leg presses—50 to 100 reps. I continued to throw some of those sets into my leg program. The main reason for my high-rep workouts was to find a way to train very, very hard without putting undue stress on joints, particularly the bad shoulder.
Blood-flow-restriction training was the third method that I used in my contest preparation this year. In 2007 IRON MAN published an intriguing article by Dr. Layne Norton about occlusion training. I ruptured a hamstring tendon that year and used the technique on my left leg in order to help get it back to full size as quickly as possible while using very light weights. Obviously, I didn’t want to rip the re-attached tendon back off the bone.
I had great success using blood-flow restriction during my rehab and was able to guest pose at the NPC Alaska Iron Man Naturally just 14 weeks after the reattachment surgery. After my leg was back to normal, I abandoned the occlusion training for the most part. Then I had the good fortune to be invited to work at Norton’s VIP Bodybuilding Camp in Tampa for the past two years, and I got to meet Jeremy Loenneke, who did a presentation on blood-flow restriction at the camp. Jeremy reported that the name of the method had been changed from occlusion training to blood-flow-restriction training because of the negative connotations of the word occlusion.
In his presentation Loenneke stressed that venous blood flow is restricted, not occluded, with the technique—and arterial flow is not restricted. Here’s how it works.
You use a cuff or elastic bandage, like a knee wrap, applied at the top of the arms or legs tightly enough to restrict venous return. You perform three to five sets of 15-plus reps with 30-to-60-second rest periods between them. Jeremy’s research demonstrated muscle gains similar to conventional training using only 20 percent of one-rep max—and that was without going to failure. Yes, it sounds much too good to be true, but the research is conclusive and has been duplicated many times. There’s not enough room here to go into details, but so far they have found it to be completely safe and very effective. As with 4X and high-rep training, however, blood-flow restriction is not for sissies. Even though you are using extremely light weights, you build up extremely high levels of lactic acid very quickly, and the burn is intense! But it works—so I did it. It seems that in one way or another Layne Norton manages to drop blood-flow-restriction information into my lap just when I needed it the most!
Monday, 4X training:
Chest, Lats, Shoulders
Bench presses 4 x 10
Incline presses 4 x 10
Close-grip pulldowns 4 x 10
High-pulley rows 4 x 10
Machine military presses 4 x 10
Machine rear-delt flyes 4 x 10
Tuesday, Heavy: Legs
Leg presses 7 x 20, 1 x 50-75
Squats 4 x 8-10
Seated leg curls 4 x 10-12
Leg extensions 4 x 10-12
Calf presses 4 x 12-15
Wednesday, High Reps:
Chest, Medial Delts, Biceps
Bench presses 4 x 20-30
Incline presses 4 x 20-30
Lateral raises 3 x 15-20
EZ-bar curls 3 x 15-20
Thursday, High Rep + Heavy:
Pulldowns 4 x 15-20
Seated cable rows 4 x 8-12
One-arm dumbbell rows 4 x 8-10
Machine rear-delt flyes 3 x 15-20
Pressdowns 4 x 20-25
Dumbbell extensions 3 x 20-30
Friday, blood-flow restriction:
Leg presses 6 x 20
Squats (BFR*) 4 x 12
Leg curls (BFR) 3 x 12
Leg extensions (BFR) 3 x 12
Standing calf raises (BFR) 4 x 12-15
Restriction: Upper Body
Bench presses (BFR) 4 x 15
Seated cable rows (BFR) 4 x 15
Seated DB presses (BFR) 3 x 15
Seated DB curls (BFR) 4 x 12
Pressdowns (BFR) 4 x 20
* BFR is blood-flow restriction, done with a cuff or band around the legs or arms being trained.
The bottom line is that if you have joint issues that are aggravated by even moderate weights, there are some great ways to continue training and gaining. I highly recommend investing in Steve Holman’s e-books on 4X training—especially if the time you have in the gym is limited. Steve has also touched on high-rep training in some of his articles and in the e-book, The 4X Mass Workout [available at www.X-Workouts.com].
For details on blood-flow-restriction training just Google Jeremy Loenneke. For those who don’t have joint problems, these are all excellent and effective training methods that you can use to shake things up and add slabs of beef! When you try them out, please drop me an e-mail note, and let me know how they work for you.
Train hard and eat clean!
Editor’s Note: See Dave Goodin’s blog at www.IronManMagazine.com. Click on Blogs in the top menu bar. Check out his new Web site at Shredderbuilt.com. To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to DaveGoodin@iCloud.com. IM