In the ’80s, when they started appearing on everyone from Tom cruise to Madonna, muscular middles went mainstream. Hard cores were no longer hardcore. In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s era, some champs worked their abdominals for 30 minutes daily. For some of today’s pros, crunch time only comes precontest. This article is for nearly every bodybuilder, from gym novices to Mr. O competitors, because most of us are letting our abs off easy. In this article, we’ll examine the most frequent midsection mistakes and lay out ab solutions for making your center the center of attention.

#1 Ab neglect
Bodybuilders might neglect abs because they assume they can chisel them in the next time they diet down. For them, the three Cs–carb restriction, cardio and crunches–go together like bacon, lettuce and tomato, and when their middles are not being defined, they figure, why bother? Another reason for neglect: even when bodybuilders do train abs, they tend to tack low-intensity sessions onto random workouts, and because those workouts accomplish little, they can be skipped with little guilt.

Just as there are two main reasons many bodybuilders neglect abs, there are two main reasons not to. First, core strength is necessary for key mass makers, such as deadlifts and squats. Second, you cannot maximize ab muscularity with a crash course. Instead, you need to grow–or at least maintain–these muscles year-round.

Solutions
As with other muscles, set goals–from how you want your middle to look to specific rep and resistance targets.
Twice per week, give your abs the same focus as other bodyparts. If you do cardio separately from your weight workouts, an excellent time to hit abs is before cardio, or you may want to ab up in a separate workout at home.
Do eight to 12 sets for your rectus abdominis and three to five sets for your obliques.
If you’re in a rush, superset abs with other bodyparts or do all your ab exercises as a giant set with no rest between exercises.
To avoid the “Why bother?” blahs of endless crunches, infuse your ab workouts with intensity which brings us to our next mistake.

#2 Insufficient intensity
Pop quiz: What were your best sets last time you trained chest?

Now, answer the same question for abs. If you have a ready response about bench presses and inclines, but none for crunches and leg raises, give yourself an ab F. Rest assured, most bodybuilders fail this quiz. Not only do most of us train abs with insufficient intensity, but it seldom even occurs to us that we’re shortchanging our midsection workouts. Instead, we plod through sets of high reps, the sort we would never do for chest or any other bodypart.

Solutions
Train to grow your abs, not tone them. The risk of overgrowing your rectus abdominis is akin to the risk of growing too rich–you should be so lucky. As with the woman who fears free weights will make her “look like a man,” alas, it’s never easy to alter ourselves. Train for growth. Toning will follow.
Typically, do sets of 10-15 reps. When you can do more than 15, increase the resistance.
Ab machines are often the most efficient way to add resistance.
As opposed to increasing reps or the weight, you can boost intensity via techniques such as supersets and giant sets.

#3 Missing the target
Owing to their school-gym-period days of crunches and other calisthenics, many bodybuilders still spend more ab time working their hip flexors, straining their spinal erectors and rapidly flopping about than actually contracting their abs.

Solutions
Do primarily crunching movements for the rectus abdominis, either free form or with a machine.
Train at a slow, steady pace, focusing only on your abs.
All ab exercises have short ranges of motion, and thus, contractions are paramount. Hold each contraction for one or two seconds and flex.

#4 Upper ab exclusivity
Most bodybuilders focus primarily, if not exclusively, on the upper rectus abdominis–the six-pack. In fact, that is only one of four ab areas to train. The other three are the lower rectus abdominis (from below your six-pack to your groin), the external obliques (on either side of your midsection) and the transverse abdominis (located underneath your rectus abdominis and obliques). The lower abs are often neglected, because–when you have at least some clothes on–they’re less visible than the upper abs. Obliques are typically skipped, because bodybuilders are afraid of widening their waists. Transverse abs are out of sight and, therefore, usually out of mind.

Solutions
Lower abs are important for core strength and a powerful look that ties your upper and lower body together. Reverse crunches and leg or knee raises work this area.
Obliques are also crucial for core strength, because they stabilize your upper body and, when fully developed and defined–picture the piano key rows on Dexter Jackson’s sides–they grab attention. Side crunches and machine trunk twists work this area. Waist width is primarily the result of a broad hip/waist structure. Nevertheless, if you’re concerned about oblique overgrowth, do sets of 20-30 reps.
Your transverse abs aren’t visible, but they play a crucial role in your posture and keeping your belly in. You can work this area anytime and anywhere by pulling your bellybutton in toward your spine as far as possible and holding that position for a count of 10. Repeat for up to 10 times.

#5 Trying to train away fat
Many bodybuilders think enough crunching will bring their abs into sharp relief. Although recent research proves spot reduction is possible, your best strategy for shedding adipose tissue and excavating your abs is a combination of dieting and cardio.

Solutions
Alter your diet to lose fat. Eliminate trans fat and minimize saturated fat and simple carbs. Focus instead on lean protein, complex carbs and healthy fats.
Do 45-60 minutes of cardio postworkout or early in the morning.
Focus your ab workouts on growth, and the new muscle will become increasingly more visible as you shed unwanted weight.
Lessons Learned
Make time to train abs thoroughly twice per week.
Keep most reps in the 10-15 range and focus on increasing reps or resistance. Boost intensity via supersets or giant sets.
Train abs slowly, focusing on contractions.
Work all four areas: upper abs, lower abs, obliques and inner abs.
Diet and do cardio to lose fat; train abs to gain muscle.

Bringing out the shape and striations of the shoulder muscles is a big part of upper-body training, but first you need to make sure you have sufficient delt muscle mass. Here are three tips for adding massive size to the shoulders.

Go Heavy
Working in the 8-12-rep range is generally the best way to add muscle mass to most bodyparts (the one exception being legs, which respond better to slightly higher reps). But I firmly believe that muscles, especially the deltoids, also need to be subjected to very heavy weight to grow to their potential–a weight at which you can do only 5-6 reps. Go ahead and do lateral raises in the 8-12 range (even 15-20), but I suggest doing overhead presses in the 5-6-rep range at least every other workout. It’s not that every set of presses has to be heavy; if you’re doing, say, 4-5 sets of seated barbell presses, you can do your first set or two for eight reps, but then make your last 2-3 sets heavier.

Get Creative With Your Presses
Most people vary their shoulder training only when it comes to lateral raises–they’ll do front-, middle- and rear-delt raises with dumbbells and cables, from different angles–but when it comes to presses, they mainly stick to barbells and dumbbells.

There are many other versions of overhead presses that you should work into your delt routine, such as the Smith machine overhead press, Arnold press, both in-front-of-the-head and behind-the- neck overhead presses (using a barbell or a Smith machine) and standing overhead barbell or dumbbell presses (military press).

Utilize Rest-Pauses on Presses
As intensity techniques go, I think drop sets and supersets are great when doing front-, middle- and rear-delt raises. On overhead presses, however, my favorite technique is the rest-pause. The reason behind this is with rest-pauses, you never have to lighten the load–you start with a heavy weight and stick with it for the whole set. To refresh, here’s how to perform rest-pauses: Pick a weight for a Smith machine overhead press with which you can do about six reps. Do a set of 4-5 reps, rest 15-20 seconds, and then do 2-3 more reps with that same weight. Rest another 15-20 seconds, then do another 2-3 reps. At that point, you’ll have done 8-11 reps with a weight with which you could normally do only six.

These tips will help spark growth in your shoulders, so give them a try next time delt day rolls around. Follow your pressing moves with high-intensity laterals and you’ll have the best of both worlds: size and definition.

Bolder Shoulder Routine
This workout emphasizes going heavy on your first two exercises, and it’s ideal for building massive delts.

Things get more complicated. We’ve previously covered muscles, such as biceps, that simply shorten or lengthen to close or open a hinge joint. That was primary school; this is college – because your shoulder joints offer an advanced degree of mobility. Three distinct delt heads move your arms over 180 degree arcs. This greater complexity leads to heightened risks of errors and injuries.

So take careful notes as we tackle the five most common shoulder training blunders and explain how to shoulder on correctly.

Mistake #1: Overemphasising Front Delts
All delt heads do not work equally, and the one that typically carries the heaviest load is the anterior. Your front delts are not only primary movers during overhead presses, they’re also secondary movers during chest and triceps workouts, helping during presses and dips. If you’re doing front raises in addition to a lot of shoulder, chest and tri compound lifts, you’re likely overworking your front delts.

This is especially true if you train chest and shoulders in the same workout or on consecutive days.

Solutions
If you hit chest before shoulders in the same workout, consider how much pressing and dipping you’ve already done before working delts. If the total is at least eight sets, do no more than four sets total of shoulder presses and front raises.
Don’t train chest and shoulders on consecutive days. Ideally, three days should pass between hitting each, so if you do chest on Monday, do delts on Thursday.
Dumbbell presses or presses behind the neck stress the middle delts more and front delts less, so these are good alternatives to military presses if you believe that your front delts are overtrained or that they’re outgrowing the other heads.
One cardinal rule of bodybuilding is that you can never be too wide. And so, it’s generally best to emphasize your middle delts more and front delts less on shoulder day, because the middles (most responsible for shoulder width) get little stress during other workouts and your fronts may assist during both your chest and tri sessions.

Mistake #2: Underemphasising Rear Delts
Just as anterior delts tend to get too much emphasis, posterior delts tend to get too little. Rear delts assist during lat exercises, such as rows and pulldowns; but if you’re targeting your lats correctly, it’s unlikely that your rear delts are receiving enough work on back or shoulder day to reach their full potential.

Most bodybuilders relegate rear laterals to last place in their shoulder routines, and then go through the paces for four sets of minimal intensity. It’s no wonder posterior delts are so frequently your shoulders’ weakest links.

Solutions
Consider training rear delts on back day, when you can emphasize them separately from their front and middle brothers. Perform four to six sets of rear laterals at the end of your back workout.
If you choose to train posteriors on shoulder day, don’t always perform them last in your routine.
Instead, do rear laterals after presses – but before any side laterals or front raises – or switch up the order from workout to workout.

Mistake #3: Too Fast And Furious
Especially when it comes to side laterals and front raises, trainers tend to go too heavy and use too much momentum. Each delt head is relatively small, and to isolate them, you need to minimise both momentum and assistance from other muscles. You may not want to be seen holding 20-pound dumbbells, but if that’s what it takes to best isolate your medial delts, then those are the weights you should be grabbing.

Solutions
Do shoulder exercises seated instead of standing to remove your legs from the lifts.
Choose weights that you can utilize for 8-12 strict reps at a relatively slow pace (1 second up, 2 seconds down). Pause at the bottom of reps to begin each rep from a dead stop and eliminate any swinging momentum.

Mistake #4: Improper Form
This mistake usually runs in concert with #3. The main culprit is emphasising the weight and not focusing on muscle stimulation. Thus, the weight is raised by any means necessary. Other times, trainers simply develop bad habits; some never learn how to do lifts in the manner that best stimulates muscle gains.

Solutions
Correct form is especially important on shoulder day, because of the ball-and-socket joints’ vulnerability to injury.

When doing side laterals, let your elbows lead the way and raise them until they’re even with your shoulders. In the top position, your hands should be just below the level of your elbows (arms slightly bent) with your pinkies up and thumbs down.
Throughout each set, focus on the deltoid heads you’re targeting, not on the resistance. Work the muscle, not the weight. After reaching failure in a shoulder exercise, don’t cheat to eke out extra reps. Instead, do a drop set, have a partner help with forced, reps or use the rest-pause technique.
When doing overhead presses, lower your hands to approximately chin level (or below) and raise to just short of lockout.

Mistake #5: Lack Of Exercise Variety
Shoulders may be the only body part you train with just free weights. It’s true that barbells and dumbbells are the most effective training tools, but you can too easily fall into a rut of doing the same three or four free-weight exercises the same way, workout after workout. Variety is also an effective tool.

Solutions
There are a lot of ways to do overhead presses.

Try including a different pressing exercise each shoulder workout. Here are three free-weight presses you likely aren’t doing: underhand presses (press a barbell over-head with a shoulder-width underhand grip); Arnold presses (press dumbbells from underhand at the bottom to overhand at the top); and rack military presses (press each rep from a dead stop off of power-rack supports set at chin level).

There’s more to training middle delts than just dumbbell side laterals. On occasion, do side laterals with cables or a machine and, regardless of equipment, you can go unilateral. Wide-grip upright rows are another way of targeting your middle delts.

Likewise, you can perform rear laterals with cables or machines and go unilateral. You can also do wide-
grip bent-over rows to focus more on your posterior delts. A Smith machine is an effective tool for wide-grip rows; hold each contraction and flex your rear delts.

Lessons Learnt
Work your front delts less and middle delts more
Train rear delts after back or don’t leave them for last in your shoulder routine
Sit down and slow down to remove momentum from lifts
Use strict form and avoid cheating, even if only to extend a set beyond failure
Do a wide variety of shoulder exercises

Filling out your shirts which I know is important to every guy reading this requires not only a well-developed chest, back and shoulders but upper traps, too. Serious bodybuilders usually include traps exercises in their workouts, either in their shoulder or back workouts. But a lot of people don’t do enough traps work, if any. That’s a mistake.

Shrug It Off
Training traps is easier than many bodybuilders think. One major action of this muscle is simply to lift the entire shoulder girdle, which means “shrugging” the shoulders upward. The shrug is just what it sounds like lifting the shoulders toward the ears. There isn’t much more to the technique than this. Doing a shrug exercise involves holding a pair of dumbbells, a barbell or the handles of a particular machine (a shrug machine or the handles of a military press machine as you stand on the seat) to provide resistance, and lifting your shoulders as high as you can toward your ears.

Ideally, you should hold the position of full contraction and squeeze at the top, then slowly lower your shoulders to feel a stretch at the bottom. The range of motion is very short: the distance you can lift or lower your shoulders.

Keep It Simple
You often see bodybuilders making shrugs more complicated than they have to be. For example, some roll their shoulders forward and back as they do the lift. This doesn’t add any benefit to the exercise and, in fact, can be dangerous.

All that really counts is the muscular contraction that takes place directly against gravity straight up, not forward or back. And be sure to keep your head up.

More Ways Than One
While shrugs are the primary exercise for traps, this muscle is involved in a number of other movements as well. There’s a lot of traps effort in conventional deadlifts, for example. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to finish reps of deadlifts with a pronounced shrug, since the goal is to build your physique, not to develop maximum power and strength. I wouldn’t recommend that same technique to a powerlifter, for instance.

Working Traps Indirectly
Another exercise that involves the traps is the upright row. As you lift the bar to your chin, you’ll feel your traps contracting as part of the movement. And while this is an integral part of the exercise, there are other moves in which you should be careful not to involve the traps. An example of this is the dumbbell lateral raise, which is meant to isolate the middle deltoids, not the traps. The shoulders should pivot as the weight comes up, but you should try not to shrug at the same time.

Final Points
No matter how far along you are in your development, you’ll find you can use quite a lot of weight with shrugs. But as with all exercises, the idea is not to work too heavy or too light.

The correct weight is one that allows you to work completely through a short range of motion using strict technique, holding and squeezing at the top, completing 10-12 reps.

The only bad thing about training your traps? Your collared shirts will no longer fit around your neck!

Height: 5’5″ – 165 cm
Weight: 117lbs. – 53kg

a

What was your lifestyle like prior to your transformation?

My lifestyle was always healthy although I never really had a body that I was proud of. I use to eat 3 meals a day, such as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes I would just have another breakfast at dinner time. My meals were mainly carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, bread and potatoes etc. I was always into staying fit but lacked the motivation to really achieve my goals. I got to a stage at the end of 2011 where I was hardly training and my motivation levels had dropped completely.

So I decided to make a choice at the beginning of 2012 to set a goal to achieve my dream physique and ensure I achieve it.

Andreia Brazier

Have you had any obstacles or setbacks towards achieving your goal physique?

2 weeks before my first WBFF competition I injured my right shoulder and that stopped me from training upper body completely. The only thing that stopped me from achieving my fitness goals would be an Injury or illness, nothing else! Although I wasn’t going to give up that easy or pull out from the competition and I was prepared to work around the injury and so I did.

I wanted to compete so badly that I made sure that I did everything that was possible to look my best on stage no matter what obstacles were placed in front of me.

Andreia Brazier

What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?

I’m very happy I have achieved my goals and I feel that all the hard work is paying off. The universe gives me the wisdom and power to transform my life for the better. What motivates you to keep going and push harder? Lots of things motivate me to keep going and push harder. When I am in the dark, I know the Sun will shine sometime soon and when it shines nothing can stop it!

I love the fitness lifestyle so much and I have always wanted to dominate in this sport. In everything I do I always give it my absolute 100%. To be the best you have to train like the best.

Andreia Brazier

Nadine Du Toit and Andreia Brazier

What is your next goal?

The next goal for me is to retain my title in the World Champion WBFF Competition in August 2013, Las Vegas. I am looking forward to the show already and I am having lots of fun spending time on my costume and bikini design. In terms of the future, I am not really planning much.

I will just make sure that I’m happy with where life is taking me and to keep moving forward.

Andreia Brazier

What is your current training philosophy?

Train hard or go home! However I do love the balance and I do listen to my body first. If I am not in the mood, I will just take some time off. I always respect my body.

Current Routine:

Monday: Chest

  • Flat Bench 4×10
  • Incline Bench 4×10
  • Push Ups 4×15
  • Dumbbell Flat Bench Fly’s 4×10
  • Standing Cable Fly’s 4×10

Tuesday: Back/Abs

  • Pull Ups 4x 10
  • Pull Downs 4×10
  • Upright Rows 4×10
  • Seated Cable Rows 4×10
  • Hanging Leg Raises 4×10

Wednesday: Legs

  • Squats 5×10
  • Leg Press 5×10
  • Sumo Deadlifts 5×10
  • Leg Extensions 5×20

Thursday: Off

  • Rest day

Friday: Chest/Shoulders/Abs

  • Dumbbell Press 5×12
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press 5×12
  • Decline Push Ups 5×15
  • Ab Cable Side Bends 8×10
  • Hanging Knee Side Raises 8×10

Saturday: Legs

  • Stiff Legged Deadlifts 4×10
  • Leg Curls 4×12
  • Walking Lunges 4×60
  • Leg Extensions 4×10
  • Squats 4x 10

Sunday: Back/Abs

  • Single Arm Rows 5x 10
  • Pull Ups 5×8
  • Reverse Fly’s 4×12
  • Leg Raises 10×10
  • Frontal Plank 5×15
  • Bent Over Rows 5×10

Andreia Brazier

What is your approach to nutrition?

I follow the motto, “Eat clean, Train dirty.” I always keep protein high in my diet no matter what phase of training I am in. I generally keep carbs to a moderate level and only start to restrict them even more in the lead up to competition.

Andreia Brazier

Do you bulk and cut or stay lean year round?

I stay relatively lean all year round and I always make sure I have my abs. I rarely bulk as it is my goal to stay shredded all the time.

Current Diet:

  • Meal 1: 2 slices of Rye Bread, Low Fat Cottage Cheese & 50g Smoked Salmon
  • Meal 2: CNP Pro Desert Chocolate
  • Meal 3: 120g Chicken & Salad
  • Meal 4: Hand full of Raw Nuts
  • Meal 5: 120g Salmon Steak & Vegetables
  • Meal 6: Sugar-Free Jelly

Andreia Brazier

Contest Diet:

  • Meal 1: 2 slices of Rye Bread, Low Fat Cottage Cheese & 50g Smoked Salmon
  • Meal 2: 4 oz. Chicken Breast
  • Meal 3: 4 oz. White Fish & 1 cup of Broccoli
  • Meal 4: 1 scoop of Whey Protein Powder & Water
  • Meal 5: 4 oz. Extra Lean Steak, 1 cup of Sweet Potato & 1/2 cup of Broccoli
  • Meal 6: Protein Pancake & 2 tbsps. of Peanut Butter

Andreia Brazier

What is your favorite recipe?

That would have to be my Protein Pancakes for sure. They are easy to make and taste great.

Protein Pancake

  • Ready in 5 minutes
  • Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 scoop whey protein powder
  • 200 ml egg whites
  • Toppings or fillings of choice

Instructions

  1. Mix protein powder and egg whites until well blended.
  2. Cook in a pan over medium heat, flipping to cook both sides.
  3. Top with desired toppings and eat as a pancake or fill and roll into a wrap.

Nutrients per serving

Calories: 214, Total Fats: 1.5 g, Saturated Fat: 0.5 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 23 mg, Sodium: 516 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 4.5 g, Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g, Sugars: 2.5 g, Protein: 45 g, Iron: 1 mg

Andreia Brazier

What are your best 3 tips for someone looking to reach their goal physique?

  • Eat clean
  • Train hard
  • Sleep well

Andreia Brazier

Height: 5’4″ – 163 cm
Weight: 155 lbs – 70 kg

1

What was your lifestyle like prior to your transformation?

I started weight training at the age of 17 while in high school and I immediately fell in love with it. I ended up spending all of my spare time in the weight room. During high school, I had weight training class every day and after school, I would go back to train. At that time, there was no internet, so I relied on bodybuilding magazines to get my workouts, nutrition and supplementation information. After I finished school, I found myself working in the nightlife industry in Dallas, Texas. I ended up doing that for many years and it wasn’t too healthy to say the least!

There was lots of drinking, smoking and eating fast food during the day and especially at night after the clubs closed. During that time, my exercise regimen was sporadic at best.

2

What was your low point or turning point?

After about a three year layoff from any type of consistent training and consuming fast food just about every day of the week, I was at my heaviest. I lost whatever muscle I had gained during my previous years of training and I was no longer happy with myself mentally or physically. I had done too much partying, too much eating and not enough training and it showed! One day, I was online and I came across a photo of Pham ‘Flexx’ Vu; it might have been on SimplyShredded.com when you guys ran an article on him. I was instantly inspired by his physique and being half Asian myself, seeing another Asian with a physique like his really motivated me. I remembered how I felt in the past when I had trained and I knew I had to get back at it. My goal was to see if I could obtain a physique similar to Pham ‘Flexx’ Vu’s.

That’s when I decided to get to work and make some serious changes. I started hitting the gym consistently; I would go for runs almost daily and I even started trying to eat better.

3

What was the hardest part about your transformation?

The hardest part was just getting started. At that time, I didn’t have a gym membership, so I pushed myself to run almost daily. Only, I’m not a runner at all, but I knew I had to start somewhere and do some form of cardio to lose my body fat. I was able to slowly build my way up to 3 miles a day and I even ran up to 6 miles a few times, which was a big deal for me. (Laughs)

When I finally got a gym membership, I started hitting the weights again and that was a great feeling!

4

What motivates you to keep going and push harder?

I think competing in the IFBB as a Men’s Physique Pro at the age of 45 and being one of the oldest pros is highly motivating! Also, being from Minnesota, there are not a lot of pros that have come from my area. I want to show our local community of competitors that someone from our area can make it to the IFBB pro league and not only make it, but do very well.

I aim to inspire my competitor friends from back home to keep pushing for their dreams too!

What is your next goal and where do you see yourself this time next year?

My ultimate goal is to win a pro show and earn enough qualification points to make it to the Olympia stage.

If I can continue to hang with some of the top guys, next year at this time, I’d like to still be competing in the IFBB. For a challenge, I may even try the ‘new’ Classic Physique class.

What is your current training philosophy?

Because I’m 45, I don’t train as heavy as I used to. My goal is to reduce the chance of injury. I tend to focus on the movements, changing the tempo of the reps, focusing on the contractions and really emphasizing the ‘squeeze’ during each repetition. I also focus on keeping tension on the muscle throughout each set. For me, I feel it’s very important to have that mind to muscle connection for every rep of every set.

Full Routine:

Monday: Legs/Shoulders/Abs

  • Squats 4 x 8-12
  • Front Squats 3 x 10-12 (Superset)
  • Leg Extensions 3 x 10-12
  • Romanian Deadlifts 3 x 10-12 (Superset)
  • Leg Curls 3 x 10-12
  • Standing Calf Raises 5 x 15-20
  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 4 x 10 (Superset)
  • Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises 4 x 10
  • Hanging Leg Raises 3 x 15
  • Russian Twists 3 x 20
  • Cable Rope Crunches 3 x 20

Tuesday: Back/Biceps

  • Pull Ups 4 x 15
  • Pendlay Rows 4 x 10-12 (Superset)
  • Seated Cable Row 4 x 10-12
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Rows 4 x 10-12
  • Behind the Neck Pulldowns 4 x 10-12
  • Dumbbell Pullovers 4 x 10-12 (Superset)
  • Wide Straight Arm Pulldowns 4 x 10-12
  • Barbell Curls 3 x 10 (Triple Drop Set)

Wednesday: Chest/Triceps

  • Dumbbell Flat Bench Press 4 x 8-12
  • Incline Smith Machine Press 4 x 8-12 (Superset)
  • Incline Dumbbell Fly’s 4 x 8-12
  • Decline Smith Machine Press 4 x 8-12 (Superset)
  • Cable Fly’s 4 x 8-12
  • Cable Pushdowns 3 x 10 (Triple Drop Set)

Thursday: Shoulders/Abs

  • Behind the Neck Press 4 x 10-12
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raises 3 x 10 (Triple Drop Set)
  • Dumbbell Front Raises 4 x 10 (Superset)
  • Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Fly’s 4 x 10
  • Crunches 3 x 20
  • Leg Raises 3 x 15

Friday: Arms

  • Barbell Curls 4 x 8-12 (Superset)
  • Dumbbell Skull Crushers 4 x 8-12
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curls (Superset) 4 x 8-12
  • Pushdowns 4 x 8-12
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curls 3 x 10-12
  • One-Arm Cable Kickbacks 3 x 10-12

Saturday: Priority Training

  • On Saturdays, I will pick a body part I feel is lagging behind and focus on it. For example, I will hit my upper chest, lats or legs.

Sunday: Rest

  • Recovery

5

What is your secret to your incredible upper and lower abdominal development?

Using a wide variety of exercises has allowed me to really develop my abdominals. For the upper abs, I use a variety of crunches and for the lower abs, I do a lot of hanging leg raises.

Do you deplete your water prior to a show? Tell us about the process and what’s worked best for you.

This season before a show, going into peak week, I’ve been water loading. For example if the show is on a Saturday morning, several weeks leading up to the show, I’ll drink 1.5 gallons of water a day. Once peak week arrives, that Monday and Tuesday, I will increase my water intake to 2 gallons. Then on Wednesday and Thursday, I will increase my intake to 2.5 gallons. The day prior to the show, I’ll increase my water intake to 3 gallons a day.

On the day of the contest, if I’m thirsty, I’ll sip on water and drink a little just to wash down my food.

What is your approach to nutrition?

For all of my shows, I’ve worked with a contest prep coach in Minnesota, Mike Gritti. So during contest prep, I just eat what Mike tells me to eat, when he tells me to eat it! (Laughs) When I’m in off season and I’m not competing, I go by the 80/20 rule. I’ll eat good and clean 80% of the week and then I will let myself indulge the other 20% of the week.

For example, Monday – Friday afternoon, I’ll eat all clean meals and when Friday night rolls around, I’ll allow myself a cheat meal or a treat. On Saturday and Sunday, I will also allow for a cheat meal.

Do you bulk and cut or stay lean year round?

I try to stay fairly lean year round. I try not to go above 10% body fat, so when I prepare for a show, I don’t have to follow any drastic weight loss strategies.

Daily Diet:

  • Meal 1: ½ scoop Protein, 1 cup Oatmeal and 1 tablespoon Peanut Butter and 1 Protein Shake mixed with 1 cup liquid Egg Whites and ½ Scoop Protein
  • Meal 2: 1 cup scrambled Egg Whites, 1 cup Spinach, ½ cup Peppers, ½ Avocado and 1 Tortilla Wrap
  • Meal 3: 6 ounces Chicken, 1 cup Jasmine Rice and 1 cup Broccoli
  • Meal 4: (post workout) 1 cup liquid Egg Whites, 1 scoop Protein and 1 Apple or Banana
  • Meal 5: 93% Ground Beef or Turkey, 1 cup Sweet Potatoes and 1 cup Broccoli
  • Meal 6: 6 ounces Tilapia or White Fish, 1 cup Spinach and 6 Asparagus Spears

6

Do you have a sweet tooth? And what’s the one food you couldn’t live without and how do you handle food cravings?

Yes, I have a major sweet tooth! (Laughs) My favorite food is probably ice cream, if you can call that a food. (Laughs) Otherwise, I’d have to say pizza.

To handle cravings, I prep all of my meals in advance for the week and I always keep extra meals in my meal bag. This really helps me stay on track.

What does your supplementation look like?

Year Round:

  • Protein Powder
  • Creatine
  • Glutamine
  • Vitamins
  • Fish Oil
  • Pre Workout
  • BCAA’s/EAA’s
  • Fruits and Greens Powder

Cutting:

  • L-Carnitine (Liquid)
  • CLA’s
  • Fat Burner

7

What are your best 3 tips for someone looking to reach their goal physique?

  1. Eat according to your fitness goal. What you eat is crucial to achieving your goal!
  2. If you want to achieve the results you’re after in the shortest amount of time, be as consistent as possible with your workouts and your nutrition.
  3. Learn to be disciplined. You must be disciplined to achieve a goal physique. There will be plenty of obstacles in your way, both in training and what you should and shouldn’t eat. The more disciplined you are the better results you’ll get!

8

The most stubborn and hard to develop body part for most bodybuilders is definitely a pair of diamond shaped calves. Even at the professional level, a great pair of calves is seldom seen on stage.

I think there are a few reasons why this is the case, especially in today’s bodybuilders as opposed to bodybuilders from the past. Firstly, the top reason that calves elude so many people is simply stated; a lack of effort and an equal lack of understanding just what the calves need to stimulate growth in the area. The majority of trainees tack on a few sloppy half hearted and half @ssed sets at the end of their quad session and then whine about how their calves won’t respond and that it’s just not in the cards for them to ever have a pair of impressive lower legs.

How calves should be trained
The key is to use a full range of motion, varied rep ranges, stretching between sets, short rest periods, and lots of intensity techniques. You see a ton of guys in the gym using a veritable ton of weight on calf movements, but they are usually doing a half @ssed bobbing kind of motion where the body does most of the moving with no ankle flexion. Go all the way up and all the way down on every rep, and when you can do no more full reps, do half reps until you can’t stand the pain, then do a few more.

Supersets, Drop Sets, and Giant Sets are killer and will help make ’em grow fast. Be intense and work hard, with a full range of motion, and lots of stretching, and they will grow.

More Tips
Another thing is to treat them like any other body part, if you do 12 sets for chest, and tack on only a measly 4 sets for calves, you aren’t working hard enough or smart enough for that matter. I’d do 10-15 sets once a week, and 5-8 sets lighter on another day of the week, depending on your training experience. I have heard many people say that they can’t build their calves because they are a hard dense muscle and no matter what they do the calves do not respond. I think that most people approach calf development in the wrong way. After training for many years, and observing a ton of trainees, in a ton of different gyms, I have come to the conclusion that you have to really shock the calves in almost every training session.

Importance of form and range of motion
I see people doing calves while using the whole weight stack on Standing Calf Raises and just barely moving the weight, with a hopping/bobbing motion of the body. Granted you should train as heavy as possible most times, to stimulate growth, but you must always use a full range of motion, especially on calves, as they are one of the tougher body parts to build for most people, even with correct training. An old friend of mine Barry Krimski, who won several world arm wrestling championships in the mid-late 70’s, once told me I would never be able to build up my calves. Now, I feel my calves are in proportion, and are one of my best body parts. Here are a few of the things I would recommend to get your own “Cows” and a few sample routines I use.

Calf Building Recommendations
Always get a full range of motion during the exercise.
Keep the calves guessing by doing different workouts at every training session. The calves adapt to training easier than most muscles.
Use different intensity techniques, such as Supersets, Drop Sets, Tri-sets.
Always stretch the calves between sets.
Calf Building Exercises
Standing Calf Machine
Seated Calf Machine
Donkey Calf Raises
Leg Press Calf Presses
Standing Calf Machine
My recommendations
I like to set up 4 – 5 machines and go through the sets without stopping, for as many reps as possible per machine. Do a set of each for as many reps as possible, without resting between sets, add a little weight to each machine, stretch them out on a high block of wood between Giant Sets, and go again repeating this for 3-4 cycles. The next day your calves will let you know that they felt the routine.

Another technique is to Superset two movements, such as seated calf raises and standing calf raises.

Do 5 sets of each, adding weight each set. At times you should go lighter, and at other times heavy. Another tactic that I use quite often and find very effective is to do half reps to failure once, until I can no longer perform any more full range reps. This takes the calves into a pain zone that they have never experienced before and extends the set far beyond what you could normal do, which will result in adding more mass to the calves.

Summing It Up
I go as high as 50 reps, at times and as low as 6-8 reps, always in good form with no bouncing. Try some of these suggestions and you may get a couple of cows of your own.

It’s complicated. Combining ball-and-socket joints that allow maximum arm mobility, a ribbon of snaking bones and nerves that divide the region down the middle, and a phalanx of big and small muscles spread from your butt to your neck, your back is your most complex bodypart. So it’s little wonder that many bodybuilders earn failing grades for training it. A lot of things can go wrong, but we’ve simplified the list to a top five. In this article, we examine the most frequent back blunders and lay out easy solutions for getting your back on course.

#1 Missing the target
Because your back is such a vast and complicated muscle group, there is much confusion about how to best train various areas. Many believe you simply need to pull your hands to the area you want to stimulate–low for lower lats, high for upper lats, etc.–but it’s not that easy to hit the target.

Solutions
For lat width, focus on chins and pulldowns with a grip wider than shoulder width.

For lat thickness, focus on freeweight rows: barbell, T-bar and dumbbell.

The key to lower lat activation is keeping your elbows close to your sides and pulling them as far back as possible. Two good exercises are underhand, shoulder-width pull-downs and one-arm low-cable rows, both performed with maximum ranges of motion at the contractions.

To hit your middle, upper-back muscles–especially the rhomboids, and lower and middle trapezius–do wide-grip rows pulled to your chest. Using a Smith machine or a low cable while seated, instead of a barbell, can make balancing easier when rowing to your chest.

#2 Neglecting the lower back
One area not mentioned in our preceding rundown is spinal erectors. That’s because the most common problem here is not in missing the target, it’s in failing to even try. It is true that your lower back is stimulated during virtually any standing exercise, but to maximize the size and strength of your lower erector set, you need some isolation time, too.

Solutions
Do deadlifts at least every other back workout. Deads work your spinal erectors in conjunction with numerous other muscles.

Do 4-6 sets of lowerback isolation exercises at the end of each back routine.

Back extensions, stiff-leg deadlifts (note: these are different from Romanian deadlifts, which involve less flexion and extension of the spine, and more hip flexion and extension to focus on the hams and glutes) and good mornings are excellent erector isolators. Another exercise is the back crunch, which begins like a back extension, but is a much shorter movement. Instead of bending at your waist/hips, contract your abs and curl your torso down (as if doing an ab crunch), and then rise back up by contracting your erectors.

#3 Attention to your grip
You know the truism that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This applies to every bodybuilding exercise, but it’s especially true of back work, where several secondary muscles and muscle groups (hands, forearms, biceps, rear delts) work in conjunction with your lats and other posterior muscles.

Typically, your hands are the weak link in this chain, and if your grip gives out first, you won’t be able to maximally stimulate your back, no matter how strong all the other links are.

Solutions
An underhand grip involves the biceps more and can place you in a stronger position, allowing you to use more weight. Incorporate both underhand and overhand grips into your back routine.

Whether overhand or underhand, always wear training straps for any row, chin or pulldown. In research performed by the Weider Research Group, trained bodybuilders using straps during a typical back workout increased the number of reps they were able to complete by one or two on every set of every exercise compared to when they did the same back workout with bare hands.

We recommend bodybuilders use straps during deadlifts, but if you want to increase strapless dead strength for powerlifting or other sports, alternate your grip by using what is known as a staggered grip (one hand underhand, one hand overhand) to better secure the bar in your grasp. A study presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the National Strength and Conditioning Association by researchers from the Weider Research Group found that trained lifters using a staggered grip significantly increased their strength on the deadlift compared to an overhand grip with both hands.

#4 Overreliance on machines
The back is complex and the elbows can travel a great multitude of paths when pulled backward, so most modern gyms offer several unique rowing machines: high rows, low rows, unilateral rows, row/pulldown combinations, etc. This has encouraged too many bodybuilders to forgo barbells, dumbbells and chinning bars on back day and instead rely primarily on levers, pulleys, cams and cables.

Machines may be more comfortable and lock you into a safe position, but a freer range of motion is generally superior for muscle stimulation.

Solutions
As mentioned previously, do deadlifts at least every other back workout–with free weights, of course.

Do at least one type of free-weight row–barbell, T-bar or dumbbell–in each back workout.

In place of or in addition to pulldowns, do chins at least every other back workout. If you’re not strong enough to get 8 reps on your own, lighten your bodyweight by either having a partner slightly lift up on your feet, lightly resting your feet on a bench beneath the bar or using a chin assist machine.

#5 Overusing secondary muscles
Bodybuilders who have trouble isolating their latissimus dorsi muscles tend to go either too heavy with sloppy form, thus overrelying on momentum and their spinal erectors, or pull too much with their biceps and/or rear delts, thus never fully stretching or contracting their lats. Because you cannot watch your back work while you are training it, it’s especially crucial to master proper form by feeling stretches and contractions during rows, pulldowns and other posterior lifts.

Solutions
Work the weight, don’t let it work you. Use a weight you can comfortably handle with strict form for 8-12 reps.

Pull with your elbows, bringing them back and/or down as far as possible.

If your biceps are doing too much of the work, utilize only an overhand grip.

Focus on the targeted area of your back. Don’t focus on the weight or the path of the movement.

Do back isolation work, such as straight-arm pulldowns. Because rows and pulldowns/pullups involve movement at the elbows, they are multijoint exercises that use other muscle groups, such as the biceps, in addition to the back muscles. Therefore, these exercises do not isolate the lats. To isolate the lats, include one exercise that does not involve movement at the elbows, such as straight-arm pulldowns. Do these toward the end of training, after rows and pulldowns/pullups.

Lessons Learned
Target a specific area during every back exercise.

At the end of each back workout, do isolation work for your spinal erectors.
Use training straps to secure your grip.

Include free-weight and bodyweight basics in every back workout.

Minimize momentum and feel the targeted area working throughout every rep.

Utilize lat isolation exercises, such as straight-arm pulldowns.

Backs make bodybuilders. OK, that’s a bit of an overstatement, but consider this: powerlifters, football players and wrestlers may possess colossal legs, arms and necks, but how many of them have attention-grabbing backs? Expansive “wings” seldom occur without regular doses of specialized exercises, so, outside of our subculture, they’re as rare as abs are in sumo wrestling.

What’s more, even in Olympia posedowns, backs frequently separate the winner from the runner-up. From Samir Bannout in 1983 to Jay Cutler in 2006 and at arguably every Mr. Olympia in between, he with the best back won. Having convinced you, we hope, of the importance of these potentially showstopping muscles, let us now suggest that your back training probably needs a tune-up, if not a complete overhaul. Never fear, we come to the rescue with five fresh approaches to help you get your back on track and distinguish you from the narrow norm.

#1 Old School
Let’s start with the basics. You could argue that this is the opposite of a fresh approach, for the exercises we prescribe were all “old favorites” by 1957 and, yet, over the decades, as more and more pulldown and rowing machines moved into gyms, trainers have done fewer free-weight exercises. Today, although you may do one or two nonmechanical exercises in each back workout, it’s unlikely you do only free-weight exercises. Go back to the future with our rediscovered old-school routine. By pyramiding deadlifts and barbell rows, and by performing a total of three free-weight lifts and one bodyweight exercise, you can deepen your rear torso from your glutes to your traps.

#2 Unilateral
The principal mistake most trainers make in back workouts is focusing too much on moving the weight but failing to feel the targeted muscles (or areas of muscles) working. An excellent way of correcting this is to work both sides of your back independently. Of the four exercises in our unilateral routine, you’re undoubtedly familiar with one-arm dumbbell rows. The second suggested unilateral exercise is one-arm pulldowns, which are described in the unique lifts section (see #5). One-arm low cable rows are performed like the two-arm version, although they allow for a longer range of motion at contraction. For one-arm lat levers, stand at arm’s length from an overhead cable, holding a D-handle with one hand. Keeping that working arm nearly straight throughout, bring it from overhead down to the corresponding (same side) thigh. This puts the focus on your outer lat and serratus.

#3 Pre-Exhaust
Deadlifts and barbell rows are usually the first exercises performed in a back routine. If that’s your style, you may be surprised to learn how much more you will feel your back working if you do them after lighter, more focused exercises. Our sample workout is not a “textbook” pre-exhaust routine wherein a compound lift (which stresses more than one bodypart) follows an isolation exercise (which stresses only one bodypart) because, technically, they are all compound lifts. Still, if you do pulldowns before pullovers, you’ll feel the pullovers working your back more than if you reverse the order. Next, perform one-arm low cable rows, then barbell rows followed by deadlifts. By the time you get to those last two heavy, standard exercises, your upper back should be pre-exhausted enough that you’ll feel them more in your lats, trapezius and rhomboids than usual.

#4 High/Low
When you train high/low style, you do all higher-rep sets of one exercise and all lower-rep sets of the following exercise. Alternate like this throughout a routine. This principle lends itself to back training because you can go light on a machine exercise, focusing on isolating muscles and holding contractions, and then slip as many plates as you can use on a barbell for sets of a heavy free-weight lift. Repeating this pattern throughout your workout stresses your muscles in two different ways. Those of you who tend to always slog through the same sets of eight to 10 may be surprised at how varying your rep scheme can hike your intensity and enthusiasm.

#5 Unique Lifts
Because your upper back is a complex muscle group, there are many exercises that work it in distinct ways. Try the various machines in your gym. Also, experiment by performing standard exercises on different equipment and with varying grips. For example, an underhand row on a Smith machine will work your back differently than an overhand barbell row. It’s likely you’re unfamiliar with most or all of our four unique back lifts. Work one or two into your current routine or try our regimen of all four in the same workout.

Incline dumbbell rows Lie face-down on an incline bench and row two dumbbells up, rotating your wrists from an overhand grip at the bottom to a palms-facing-your-sides grip at the top. This strict manner of rowing is a favorite of trainer Charles Glass, who has prescribed it for Gunter Schlierkamp, Chris Cormier and other pros.

One-arm pulldowns With one hand, grab a D-handle attached to a pulldown cable. Pull the handle down to the side of your chest (armpit area). With a longer range of motion, it’s easier to place more emphasis on the contraction than in a standard (two-hand) pulldown.

Seated cable high rows With an overhand grip, grasp two ends of a rope attached to a low cable. Pull the rope back and up and separate the two parts so that at the top position, your hands are near your face but at opposite sides. This exercise combines a low cable row with an upright row; it works the lats and the lower and upper traps.

High-cable arms-out pulldowns Stand in the middle of a cable crossover station and hold D-handles attached to two high cables (your arms will be out and up). Pull your elbows down and to your sides at the same time. You should feel a strong stretch in your outer lats at the top and a firm contraction in your inner, lower traps at the bottom position.

Back It Up
Your back is a complex muscle group, so your training should reflect this complexity. In order to maximize the density and details of your back, maximize variety in your back training. Incorporate our five approaches into your routine, at least on occasion, in order to grow “wings” that show everyone everywhere you’re a bodybuilder.

Everyone wants to get ripped and peeled, but usually only a few ever make it. With the hot months on the horizon, everyone at the gym starts talking about their upcoming diet and how excited they are to get the ball rolling.

A common scene really, but it’s uncommon that someone’s efforts actually payoff the way they originally intended. Within a month most guys find themselves pretty frustrated. They are halfway done cutting at best, and feel like they are running through quicksand. As a competitive bodybuilder and contest coach, I get to hear my fair share of rants from these guys and it’s the same issues over and over. Landmines placed in the exact same spot as last year get stumbled upon the following year. In this article we will name a few of the most common traps that slow down, discourage, often leave cutting phases unfinished, and with results that leave so much more to be desired.

Bodyfat

“What’s your body fat dude?”
“What’s my body fat at?”
“So what bodyfat should I get to?”

This has got to go!!

Be it if you are trying to compete in a bodybuilding show, gain the notoriety from the opposite sex, or just look good for your upcoming vacation. Nobody is going to look at you, point and say “WOW! Check out his 5.62934% bodyfat!” Truth is you are either in shape or not, and aiming for bodyfat percentages is a waste of time, a distraction at best. When I start dieting for bodybuilding shows I will get that question quite a bit. “So what bodyfat are you going to cut down to?” Truth is I just keep losing weight until I have achieved the look I desire. While your goal might not be striated glutes, I am sure you have a look in mind. What if you get callipered at the 8% you were aiming for, but don’t quite look the way you anticipated? Do you end your diet there? Which brings me to my next point: bodyfat testing in general is pretty hit or miss, at least all the affordable ways are. This is why I never have my clients send me bodyfat percentages in their weekly reports to me. I want weight (which tells us how many lbs. of bodyfat we have lost) and pictures which of course you can’t argue with. You are either ripped or not, and it’s that simple. Yes numbers are sexy, and being able to quantify things is something people just like to do in general, but “ripped” you either are or you aren’t.

Let the mirror decide, not some plastic calipers. Much like the judges don’t get on stage and caliper myself and the other competitors, neither will that young lady at the beach. Shredded doesn’t need a number, it just is.

Carbs

Fat loss and carbs just don’t go together in the eyes of most people looking to get into shape. Dieting is synonymous with low carb, and even no carb diets. While you will have to cut out some of your carbs when you start your mission towards getting lean, usually the amounts that are cut are too extreme. I will get asked often “so how man carbs should I take when dieting?” The answer is simple: as many as you can while still losing fat at the desired pace. Key words there being as many as YOU can!

Carb intakes can be one of the biggest variables when it comes to dieting.

Two guys with similar training programs, ages, and weights will often require two different approaches nutritionally. Some people might need to diet on 100 grams of carbs, others might require double or triple that amount. One thing is for sure, most folks low ball their carbohydrate threshold and diet on too little food. When you diet on less carbs than you require you will see the following occur: You will come out flying at the start, and then it will drastically slow down, and from there you will likely have to apply more aggressive protocols. Either dropping food lower or adding ungodly amounts of cardio will be required. You will then plateau to where nothing seems to work and progress will simply stall. This is where most guys end up a few weeks into their diet plan.

Use as many carbs as you can, as they will help power through your workouts in the gym, keep your metabolic rate healthy so you can lose fat longer and more efficiently and not just make progress the first month.

Second Approaches

Well if it worked for him than it should work for everyone else? If it were only that simple, how wonderful would it be. It would be great because I would no longer need weeks and weeks to get a feel for a client’s metabolic rate. Actually it would not be a good thing because there would be a “secret diet’ that would be applicable to everyone, and in turn I would be out of business. All joking aside, there is enough variation from individual to individual that one diet plan simply can’t fit all.

So while it’s cool, and I am always intrigued as to what other guys have done to get into magnificent shape, my interest has nothing to do with me wanting to mimic their approaches. I enjoy reading these protocols because it confirms the notion that we are each very unique and a wide array of approaches do work.

Some guys need to get in 3-4 hard cardio sessions a week, and others can count the number of cardio sessions they do during their whole diet on one hand. Varying protein intakes, caloric requirements, training guidelines etc. However as intriguing as these protocols are, what most likely makes these athletes successful is trial and error over the year, attention to detail, and being consistent. Good genetics usually help too, which in most cases these individuals happen to possess. For these guys almost anything will work, and let’s be blunt for a moment, if you were genetically predisposed to being muscular and lean you would likely not be reading this article.

Hard work and persistence is going to really make a big difference, the other half will come from using more sound physiological approaches, and not some copy and paste job.

Abs & Cardio

I am talking about the guys that go to the gym and spend 30-40 minutes working out abs. Not only is it a waste of time, but there could be better things you can spend fluff time at the gym on. For example prehab work, foam rolling, as in all the things that will help keep you healthy and progressing for a long time. Quite often I will get curious inquiries from clients about dedicating a whole workout to abs in an effort to tighten up the mid-section. Which still leaves me in awe since we can’t spot target fat loss, and why would a bicep grow when you use it, but the torso muscle shrink and tighten up? Truth is a little goes a long way since abs are involved in some of the bigger movements we do in the gym, and also what works best for other muscles works best for your ab development. Weighted ab exercises in the 5-12 rep range, at about 3-4 sets twice a week is more than enough. Real definition and true sculpting is going to come via fat loss, but like any other muscle in your body it can be very well developed, but if you are not lean enough it won’t show.

As the old saying goes: “abs are made in the kitchen”, not on the 400th rep of some weird ab crunch variation that is synchronized to some horrible techno music.

There are, of course, more Tips. That is why we share with you 4 more (part 2) COMING SOON!!!