The great thing about the IRONMAN E-zine, and the 'Train, Eat, Grow' series in the magazine, is that the readers get a first-hand account of what we're doing and can train right along with us. The down side is that the readers also get to realize that, although we've been at this for several years, we still make mistakes. Part of the joy of bodybuilding is that it's a constant learning experience. It's very hard to get bored if you're constantly striving to improve. It can, of course, be disappointing when you make mistakes or don't time things appropriately.
That's what happened last year around this time. The training and diet was going quite well, but we over did it. We went far too long, and dropped our calories too low to be able to maintain the size we'd worked so hard for. Sure, we got pretty lean, but I know when I was dressed normally I was plagued with questions like 'So, do you still work out?' That's a pretty rough question for anyone putting in the incredible amount of time and energy that we were investing into preparing for last year's photo shoots.
This year, however, we seemed to have finally discovered changes that allowed us to do both. We maintained, and possibly even gained, muscle while getting lean enough for our annual photo sessions with IRONMAN's Mike Neveux. I wasn't quite the leanest I've ever been, but I felt pretty close. The greatest change was that I actually was able to finally maintain muscle fullness, which has always been one of my shortcomings. It seems that any time I've dieted down long enough to consider myself lean enough, I'd always lose most of my shape. Though I always try not to pay much attention, in the past, my bodyweight always dipped to unreasonable low levels in my opinion. This year was different. My actual bodyweight didn't change much at all, staying up near the 200-pound mark for the actual photo shoots. That was a first in my 10-plus years of training and dieting. Something obviously worked.
This year the fat loss was a bit slower, but it also allowed us to maintain and even build muscle. Rather than constant calorie reductions, we found comfortable intake levels and stuck with them for longer periods. In fact, for the last month or two of training, I hardly changed my calorie intake at all. I allowed the increased training intensity to make up for calorie drops. One thing that remained constant was that I continued to zig-zag my calories all the way to the end. Something I normally hadn't done for the last few weeks of dieting. I've never gone by the true definition of zig-zagging my calories though. It's just too mathematical and annoying for me. I prefer to have two higher-calorie days per week. Generally Wednesdays and Sundays. I'd normally just eat the same foods, but more of them, with the abundance of additional calories coming from my carbohydrate sources (for my full diet, see the October issue of IRONMAN Magazine). On Wednesdays, I'd always stick to the same food sources, but on Sundays, at least up until the last month or so, I'd be a bit more adventurous. I enjoyed many good meals at my favorite local breakfast house, and even enjoyed a few good steaks and some good Japanese food. I guess the Sundays could be considered 'cheat' days, but I still avoided anything that I'd consider 'junk' food.
Training remained basically the same as it did in last month's E-zine and the September 'Train, Eat, Grow.' The main change was that we added stage sets, in which you break up an exercise into two movements. The first several reps work the hardest two-thirds of the exercise and the last few reps working the easiest third to failure. We normally performed stage sets on isolation movements.
For instance, we performed cable flyes for chest. We do cable flyes on a low bench, approximately four to five inches off the ground, with the cables set as low to the ground as possible. The stage set is then performed by doing the top, or contracted, position first. It's more than just the contracted position, of course, as you're actually doing two-thirds of the movement, avoiding the full-stretch position. Once you've gotten about 8 reps, you immediately change to the bottom third of the movement, which in this case is the stretch position. Theoretically, you should be able to get about five reps before reaching failure. The pump and vascularity that stage sets can provide is pretty outstanding. (For the full routine based on this method, see the October \'01 issue of IRONMAN.)
Needless to say, the results we achieved made this one of, if not *the* most effective routines I've experienced thus far. After all these years of training, we're still learning, so hopefully you can't reap the rewards of our experimentation.
To follow the ITRC training program in 'Train, Eat, Grow,' get a copy of the latest issue of IRONMAN. For more on POF training go to www.ironmanmagazine.com.
This special report was submitted by Jonathan Lawson
From the IRONMAN Training & Research Team
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