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Confessions of a Steroid User Pt. 2

The Big Five Mass-building Principles: Learning From Retrospect

In Part 1 of this series I discussed what happened when I quit using steroids. I said I accepted the fact that I would never weigh 300 pounds again because I thought it would be impossible for me to ever reach that weight without pharmaceutical help. Nevertheless, here I am, drug-free and weighing a solid 300 again. I've obviously learned a lot about building muscle without drugs, one of the biggest things being that the key to bodybuilding is the basics. So many bodybuilders overlook the basic principles of weight training. The truth is, you can't start building a physique before you lay a foundation'and that comes from living the lifestyle, being willing to pay the price and having a strong resolve to succeed.

For example, a friend of mine went to school full-time, supported a family, drove hundreds of miles each week and slept very little, but he never missed a workout. Sometimes he'd be sleeping in the parking lot of the gym. He maintained an orderly, well-balanced life and lived the bodybuilding lifestyle. Never on any occasion did I see anything enter his mouth that wasn't part of his scheduled diet'that's over several years. Why was he different from most? He had resolve. He believed that not only were his bodybuilding goals possible, but he would absolutely reach them if he applied himself.

Unless you're fully resolved'as my friend was'to build a muscular, drug-free physique, don't waste your time daydreaming about it, much less talking about it. You're going to have to sacrifice to attain your goal.

Before you lay any groundwork for a successful bodybuilding career'or any career for that matter'you must make a firm resolve. There's a parable in the Bible about counting the costs that says, before we embark upon a conquest, we need to make sure we're prepared to succeed. Have we weighed what will be required to meet the goal, and are we ready to pay that price? Read any literature on successful people, and you'll see that their success tends to originate in their minds. Do you have a mind-set for success?

Once you have the mind-set, you need to decide on your training strategy. Most trainees' failures begin there. The following aren't the only principles I'd recommend, just the ones I suggest for building a foundation. Arnold once said, 'You can't carve a pebble.' He was referring to people who want to get cut before they have anything to show. In other words, why do a bunch of isolation exercises and take expensive supplements when you don't have a foundation? That all but guarantees failure. You'll get frustrated from not making gains and quit.

Here are what I call the big five. Use them, and you'll reap the benefits.

Principle 1: Train to All-out Muscular Failure

Give your body an adequate training stimulus'all-out muscular failure. Simply put, you give your body a reason to grow. To do that, you need to push it to a point where you stimulate the physiological machinery necessary for growth by a greater-than-normal disruption of its recovery mechanism. That signals the body to beef up the defenses for the next attack, the defenses being larger and stronger muscles.

I believe wholeheartedly that when you reach a high level of training intensity, you can trigger growth with a single work set per exercise. I qualified that statement with the phrase, 'When you reach a high level of training intensity.' In fact, I recommend that everyone starting this program use the two-set approach: After adequately warming up, use a weight that will take you to failure within the specified rep range. Rest a few minutes, reduce the weight by 10 percent and go to failure again.

Through years of study and trial and error, I've found that training to failure on each work set is the most efficient way to stimulate growth optimally. You simply take a set to momentary muscular failure and no farther. That will require a spotter on exercises like squats, bench presses and a few others. In fact, on some exercises that have more potential for injury, you'll need to know your limits and stop one rep short of failure. Translation: If you know you're going to peter out on the next rep, don't attempt it; especially when you're doing deadlifts and squats.

Principle 2: Use Compound Movements

I've always gotten the greatest growth spurts from the big compound movements'exercises that require multiple joints and muscles to work to move the resistance. I've also observed that the harder the exercise, the greater the stimulus for growth; the more stabilization required to perform the exercise, the greater the growth; and the more exercises that cause accelerated breathing and lots of perspiration, the greater the growth. Examples of compound exercises include bench presses, dumbbell bench presses, squats, deadlifts, bent-over rows and shoulder presses. Popular exercises that are not compound movements include concentration curls, leg extensions and triceps extensions. Although they do have their place in a training program, you want to focus on compound movements when you select exercises for building mass.

Principle 3: Use Six to 10 Reps Per Set Most of the Time

Most people benefit from the six-to-10-rep range, so it's the standard for building mass. That isn't to say you can't grow from using 12 to 15 reps. Some people can; however, the vast majority will get the greatest growth while doing fewer reps per set'closer to 10 reps for legs. Yes, it's physically and mentally stimulating to drop down to the three-to-five range and knock out some heavy reps from time to time to enhance your power. The only problem is, those low reps take a toll on the connective tissues, and they don't do much for growth in most people. A low-rep workout here and there is a lot of fun and acceptable.

Principle 4: Use Two to Three Exercises Per Bodypart

For smaller muscle groups'biceps, hamstrings, triceps, calves'two exercises will be enough. The smaller groups get a lot of additional work when you train the larger groups'back, legs and chest'which often warrant three exercises. You could put shoulders in either category, but remember that they do have three heads. On back you almost always have to use three exercises to work the area completely, and four wouldn't be out of the question.

Principle 5: Train Your Body Over Five to Seven Days

Recovery from training occurs on two levels: a generalized central nervous system recovery and localized muscular recovery. Generalized recovery is a total-body toll that you have to pay in time off from an intense stimulus. In other words, you can't pound your back and shoulders one day, chest and arms the next and then legs after that. You'll short circuit your recovery and growth. In the interest of both generalized and muscular recovery, if you're hitting it hard, you're going to need five to seven days off between same-bodypart workouts. What's more, hitting two major bodyparts on two consecutive days is about all you should do before you take a day off.

ALLHere are two different ways you can split your workouts. The exercises are just hypothetical; you can use others.

Split Routine 1
(One-on/one-off program, with a two-day break at the end of the cycle)

Bench presses
Incline presses
Close-grip bench presses
or skull crushers
Strict dips
Standing shoulder presses
Lateral raises
Bent-over lateral raises


Bent-over rows
Barbell curls*
Hammer curls

*If your shoulders are a dominant bodypart, you may want to use concentration curls instead of barbell curls'a tip from Dorian Yates' Blood and Guts that paid me big dividends.


Legs (quads, hams, calves)
Squats or leg presses
Hack squats
Lying leg curls
Stiff-legged deadlifts
Standing calf raises
Seated calf raises
Saturday and Sunday

Split Routine 2
(Six-on/one-off program, using the same exercises as Routine 1)


Hamstrings and calves


Triceps and biceps



Note that each major bodypart is followed by a minor one in the six-day schedule.

After eight to 10 weeks of one of the above protocols you should back off for two weeks and do sets of 15 reps in place of the recommended six to 10. Also, eat a high-carbohydrate, nutrient-dense diet that includes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to your basic starches, and always make sure you're covering your nutrient bases with a comprehensive multivitamin and -mineral supplement and a meal-replacement powder.

A mind focused on success and a powerful growth-stimulating training program'plenty to get you started on the road to drug-free bodybuilding success.

Editor's note: Next month Rodriguez discusses cutting drugs, what they do and how to get shredded without them. IM

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