How did you get started with bodybuilding?
I first started with a plastic weight set in my basement when I was 15 years old, I’m now 28. I was motivated to start weight training through my best friend from High School, Adam. We started training 6x/week, never missed a workout, and pushed each other hard always trying to outperform our lifts from the previous workout.
I continued down the path of “pushing people” and fell in love with personal training, and now I get to help people from all around the world achieve their goals.
Where does your motivation come from?
I think once you really start to understand the human body you begin to gain an enormous amount of respect & appreciation for its complexity and efficiency. Diet & exercise are strongly linked to the health of just about every system in the body, so being healthy is a big motivation for me. I also feel it’s my duty as a trainer to stay in shape to help inspire others, and lead by example. Motivation is not something you can “give” or “teach” to a person, the individual with goals must find what will push them towards their goals. I usually encourage those losing motivation to visualize their goals with vivid detail consistently, and dwell on the end result. You have to want it, but you must STAY wanting it to succeed with any routine.
Everyone’s motivation levels fluctuate up and down no matter who you are. I just think to myself how much better I will feel if I can somehow just drag my butt into the gym and train if I ever struggle with the thought of going. I may even jump online and watch some Zhasni motivational videos from Simplyshredded.com right before leaving for the gym.
What workout routine has worked best for you?
Well, I’ve been training for almost 14 years now, and my routines have been dynamic the majority of that time. Currently my focus is just on maintaining LBM with single digit/healthy body fat. However If lean bulking, I usually will perform a 4-5 day split, working 2-3 days consecutively with 1-2 days off in-between. Most workouts consist of 9-12 total sets per muscle group, training two groups together such as Chest/Back, Chest/Triceps, or Biceps/Triceps. I’m more of a fan of HIT over volume although I use both.
I sometimes will stop 1-2 reps before failure on Set 1, but the proceeding sets I almost always go to failure and beyond, either by cheating the movement or receiving assisted reps form a training partner.
I primarily use a Hybrid Powerlifting/Bodybuilding routine. I believe you should focus on strength (hence the powerlifting) even if your primary goal is to gain LBM (lean body mass). To put that into perspective imagine yourself performing DB (Dumbbell) alternate curls, and eccentrically lowering an 80lb DB vs. a 40lb DB. The eccentric/lowering of the 80lb DB is going to place more stress upon the muscle, in cooperating a greater utilization of MU’s (motor units) to perform the controlled lowering of DB, causing more stress to the tissue. Of course if we stress the muscle, it must repair itself.
Athletes like Branch Warren, Johnnie Jackson, and Ronnie Coleman apply this well into their training. So I feel having a strong/strength base is very important even if your primary goal is hypertrophy.
I usually will start off with 2 compound exercises, and perform 3-4 sets, in the 2-8 rep range. For example I may perform Decline Bench Press for the first exercise 8, 6, 4 reps all to failure with assisted reps on the final set, and then switch to incline using a similar style. With these compound exercises my focus is on “progression”. So each week I will go for more reps, or attempt heavier weight. If you track/log your workouts week to week this is easy to manage. I also try to maintain an “explosive” concentric tempo, with a controlled eccentric on these compound lifts. So the pushing/pulling, (concentric) motion of the exercise.
I will attempt to use “explosive” force (since I’m using heavy enough weight to achieve a low reps, this can be done safely without fear of over extending your range) The eccentric/lowering of the weight I will use a controlled tempo between 1-3 seconds, I decrease the tempo speed the deeper I get into the set, so the final reps I may have a quick 1 second eccentric movement to insure I have enough in me to get one final rep.
After the heavy compound lifts I will finish up with about 3-4 isolation exercises, and bump up the rep range to about 8-12 for the next 2-3 exercises, and 12-15 for the final exercise. I try to use lots of advanced techniques applied on top of this format. So I may use partial reps, negatives, pre-exhaustion, and most frequently drop sets with a cheating applied near the end of each set.
So using lying cable curls for example, on the last set of the workout I may use drop sets while cheating on the final reps using momentum. I start the exercise with perfect form using only the bicep muscles to perform the curl very clean and strict. By say rep 6-7 once I hit failure with clean form, I will start to cheat by lifting my back off the ground and shifting my weight downwards as I curl, just enough to complete an additional rep (the movement looks like a reverse sit-up). This allows me to get additional 4-5 reps all beyond “strict form” failure. Once I reach failure for a 2nd time applying cheating to the exercise, I will drop the stack a few increments or plates, lie back down and continue once again to failure with the same technique.
I will drop the stack like this usually twice. This one giant set has 6 levels of failure when performed correctly; this is something I would typically use for the final exercise/set of the workout.
What is the best way to train for hypertrophy specific gains?
As stated above I like using the Hybrid Powerlifting/Bodybuilding split routine. Of course there are several ways to grow, many athletes use ONLY high volume, other rarely reach failure. It’s similar to going from LA to NY; you can get there by foot, car, plane or train. All mediums will get you there, but some require more effort or more time. Many seem to agree upon an 8-12 rep range for hypertrophy specific gains, but if you focus on strength as well you’ll be able to use heavier weight while doing those 8-12 reps, resulting in more growth in my opinion.
Which is the indirect relationship strength has to hypertrophy. A strength base is very important in my opinion to grow, and this is achieved through heavy/low/explosive lifts.
What is your diet like?
My diet is very dynamic just like training. I try to stay in shape year round so it’s clean overall. But I still enjoy cheat foods such as pasta, sushi, pizza, etc. on occasion only. If lean bulking I’ll usually consume 6 meals/day. The first 5 usually contain a medium GI complex carb, a lean protein source and a bit of healthy fats in about ½ of these meals. The final meal I avoid carbs and stick to something like 50g Casein with 1.5 Tbsp. of Coconut Oil. If I’m trying to lean out I may start with a carb cycling format or one of my variations of IF (intermittent fasting) I find that IF is one of the easier diets for me to follow due to my busy schedule since the first 6-8 hours require no consumption of food, also macros can be somewhat looser than normal, while still working effective.
However this diet is not ideal for bodybuilders but rather for the person with a busy lifestyle who wants to lose some body fat.
If I want to lose fat at a faster rate I would use my ccKeto diet, which is something I came up with several years back after lots of trial and error. I still use this consistently with clients today who are in a hurry to drop fat. It’s basically a hybrid diet combining the positive aspects of carb cycling and a CKD (cyclical ketogenic diet).
I have a few variations of the diet; one of the more common formats includes 3 low carb days, 2 Keto days, & 1 high carb day (6 day cycle). You can also use 3 low carb days, and 3 Keto days for faster results. The low 3 low carb days may range anywhere from 80-150g/carbs/day for me. I try to window carbs around my workouts (Pre & Post) I still use a bit of Vitargo for PWO carbs but limit it to about 20-30g and only use this on low/high carb days. I like to taper complex carbs down each day I.e. (120, 100, and 80 for low days 1-3), while taping healthy fats up to decrease the time it takes to get back into ketosis. Protein stays between 280-350g/day on average. On Keto days 4 & 5 Protein is decreased, and fat is significantly increased. Direct sources of Complex/Simple carbs are dropped, and my only carb sources are fibrous greens. I may consume 6-8 cups of greens/day. If I miss a veggie meal I will supplement it with Psyllium husk. I usually have red meat for the first time on Keto day 4 one meal, and have it twice on Keto day 5. Something like a top sirloin steak with broccoli & butter for one meal, & filet mignon with asparagus sautéed in coconut oil for another.
I like using a variety of healthy Polly/Mono/Sat fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, fish oil, walnuts, avocado, & EFA caps.
Day 6, the high carb day I find the best way to perform the carb up is to wake up 1-2 hours earlier than normal, and go to bed 1-2 hours later to try and stretch out about 9 meals. This is what I call an “extended carb up”. I prefer this over going to sleep, waking up and continuing on a carb up. I prefer to make all re-feeds/carb up over the course of 1 day always. If I feel I need more than 1 day to carb up I will just decrease the window of time between carb up, so that I’m less depleted. I.e. 4 days low/no carbs days vs. 5. Or I might just consume 1 extra carb meal on the following “Low day 1”. Consuming 9 meals instead of 6 allows me to get in 7-8 complex carb meals all in one day, and then revert back to Fat/Protein for the final meals to help get my body into ketosis faster the next round on the diet. I consume no dietary fat at all on my high carb days until the final 1-2 meals. But I may have up to 30-40g in one sitting for the 9th meal as fat load.
Traditionally with a Ketogenic diet, you cannot perform just 2-3 Keto days and expect your body to reach a deep state of ketosis, and for any reasonable amount of time. (Granted this doesn’t mean you won’t burn fat) If anything you may finally start to tread into ketosis right before your carb up, which will kick you out of it.
The problem with having 6+ Keto days straight with 0 complex carbs is the limited supply of muscle glycogen all week, and the lack of PWO carbs to replenish glycogen proceeding each training session. It’s just far from ideal for a bodybuilder or anyone whose main focus is to gain LBM.
With the ccKeto diet you’ve already had 3 low carb days to prep your body for ketosis prior to the keto days. Carbs are very restricted on low carb days, so when you do consume them Pre & PWO they are utilized immediately. This helps the quality of the workouts and the remaining PWO carbs are almost completely utilized for glycogen synthesis/replenishment. After 3 days of low carbs the body is already in a much depleted state right from the start of your 1st keto day, the transition into ketosis is very rapid once you start these 2-3 Keto days, and you’re able to stay in ketosis the majority of the time. Training is also directly correlated around the ccKeto format. I complete most of my weight training on the low/high carb days so I can have Pre/PWO carbs. On my 2-3 Keto days I will usually take time off from weight training, the focus during the keto phase is towards cardio. So on these days I may have dual LISS sessions in the AM/PM for 45-60 minutes.
This is typically the only cardio I need to do, but if in a hurry or with a deadline soon approaching you can add a few sessions on your other days. Fasted cardio works great on the morning of your high day since it’s the most carb depleted you will be the entire week.
When trying to cut down do you prefer to use HIIT or just normal cardio?
I use both when cutting, HIIT less frequently than LISS (long intensity steady state). HIIT deep into a diet can be risky when trying to conserve muscle. You’re just more likely to go into a catabolic state with HIIT when the diet is very strict and body fat is very low. HIIT uses the anaerobic glycolysis system in addition to others that LISS also uses, but what is unique about the glycolysis system is that it can tap into muscle glycogen for fuel. Because many of my diets tend to be lower in carbs I try to conserve muscle glycogen purely for weight training, and keep most cardio sessions low intensity. I still like to use HIIT as a tool, especially at the end of a high carb day when you feel you may have over ate. It can help rid any circulating blood sugar using it for energy before the liver coverts it to body fat, and the chance of going catabolic is slim with so much glucose on hand.
HIIT can also help elevate your RMR (resting metabolic rate) proceeding through the next day, which can be useful when starting a new round on the diet after your carb up.
What is your supplementation like?
I always take the same core supplements, with some others added in addition depending on my goals. The core supplements I take daily include a Multi-Vit, Fish oil, 5-HTP, Hydro Whey, Zinc/B6/Magnesium, & Melatonin.
When dieting or lean bulking I may also add Casein, Creatine, CLA, Pyruvate, Beta Alanine, an OTC fat burner such as OxyElitePro. I also like Scivation Xtend mixed with Vitargo (Pre/Intra/PWO) also a pre workout such as Jack3d by USPlabs.
“Using no way as way, having no limitation as limitation.” –Bruce Lee