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Less Variation, More Size and Strength

Q: What would you consider a mistake you made in your early years of coaching?

A: Extending the variety principle too far. Progress can certainly stagnate when you do the same workout all the time, and that was the problem with many of the early Nautilus workouts—they worked for a brief period, and people got excited about the results, but soon their progress came to a standstill.

On the other end of the spectrum is getting too much variety before your body has the chance to adapt, such as by changing exercises at every single workout. Think of it this way: It’s better to learn one language at a time, because if you try to learn several at once, your mind will simply be overwhelmed with too many different types of words and approaches to language.

Q: Have your ideas about training, nutrition and supplementation changed much since you became a strength coach?

A: My views on strength and conditioning have evolved and continue to evolve every day.- I’m a voracious reader, and I continually seek out opportunities to learn from the best people in their respective fields.

Last November, for example, I invited renowned internist Dr. Mark Houston to give a seminar at the Poliquin Strength Institute in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Dr. Houston presented the latest findings on achieving optimal cardiovascular health. His approach to treating many cardiovascular diseases through nutrients rather than drugs will revolutionize the health-care industry and save billions of dollars.

Q: You’re a celebrity in the fitness industry, but individuals attack you on Internet forums. You never respond to them. Doesn’t that trash talking bother you?

A: Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that he knew he was getting famous by the number of people he’d never met who were reporting negative things about him. It’s a price of success, and the truth is, I’m fine with it.

Negative talk is a poison; if you pay attention to it, you are swallowing it. As Dan Duchaine once told me, everybody on the Net forums is 7’4” and 489 pounds of shredded muscle—until you meet him. The more macho the user name, the worse his physique. For example, I recently met a guy who went by something like MegaBlastThunderousWarrior. His physique was an embarrassment—even his breasts were droopy!

Some newer writers in the field of strength and conditioning believe that they can achieve instant authority because of the power of the Internet, whereas 30 years ago they never would have been able to get an audience for their crap.

One author I enjoy is Tim Ferriss, who has a degree in neuroscience and East Asian studies from Princeton University. He wrote The New York Times best seller The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich, which I highly recommend. Ferris believes that today’s society has too much negativity and that we have no obligation to provide a platform for obnoxious individuals who obviously have too much time on their hands.

Ferriss says that for the concept of “different” to work, it has to fulfill at least one of two criteria: 1) It has to be better, and 2) it has to be more fun. Borrowing an example from his book: Wearing your underwear over your jeans is different. Is it better? No, because it crushes your gonads.

Is it more fun? Only for others, as they can laugh at you.

Q: What’s the latest buzz in your profession about something that can have an immediate impact on training?

A: One of the most exciting additions to my training system is PIMST, which is an acronym for Poliquin Instant Muscle Strengthening Techniques. It uses muscle activation points and Chinese acupressure methods to improve joint range of motion, neural drive, meridian balance, fascia release and posture alignment. It works fast—you can achieve results in minutes that would normally take six to eight weeks of stretching. The word is spreading fast too. My seminar this month in New York is already sold out. In fact, last week I was giving a seminar in Toronto, and after giving a quick demonstration of PIMST I announced that I would be giving a seminar on it in their area soon. That seminar is already sold out.

Q: For a star client in the entertainment industry who has an unlimited budget, what are three key principles of training that will help him or her make the most gains possible?

A: Here are three guidelines that will help ensure optimal progress:

1) Make certain that every workout is supervised. Left on his or her own, a client will tend to misinterpret training directives.

2) Hire a chef, preferably one who has made it to the finals of “Hell’s Kitchen.” Quality food is essential, and you can’t allow clients to make their own decisions about nutrition.

3) Train twice a day, three days out of five. That protocol will ensure a high quality of work while allowing adequate time for recovery.

Q: They say, “Talent prevails.” Obviously, many of the top athletes you train have great genetics and will make progress on just about any training protocol. Isn’t it rather deceiving to take credit for their accomplishments, especially the accomplishments of those in professional football?

A: I disagree. A lot of great talent in the NFL has been wasted by dumb strength coaches—and many professional strength coaches are so afraid of injuring the clients that they rely on inferior training methods, such as too much use of exercise machines.

One of the best private strength coaches in the NFL is Ian Danney of Scottsdale, Arizona, who has a degree in biochemistry from the University of Alberta. I coached Ian when he made the Olympic bobsled team for the Nagano Olympics. Ian is undoubtedly a guy who’s extended his genetic potential through brain power and applied logic. When he weighed 180 pounds, he did a rock-bottom front squat of 451 pounds.

Ian coaches more than 45 guys in the NFL, and every player he has worked with has increased his market value considerably. Yes, every player is genetically gifted, but Ian makes every one distinguish himself among that gifted pool. He pulls away athletes from his competitors because of his reputation. He is brilliant with supplementation—from improving joint health to neurotransmitter boosting.

Q: What’s the most prevalent myth in bodybuilding and general fitness training?

A: That aerobic training is the best for fat loss. Cardio for two hours in the morning on an empty stomach is one of the dumbest pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. It is a great way to get a client to pass out from low blood sugar. See my book, The German Body Comp Program, for the best way to burn fat. It’s available at

Q: Are you currently researching anything interesting?

A: I’m looking into the theory that transdermal products can possibly reverse the negative effects of aging on muscle strength. That’s far too complex a subject to be covered here, so all I’ll say about it is that you heard it here first.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad on page 183.   IM

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