Jason is getting ready for his pro debut at the New York Pro in May, and this will be our first full prep together. We've been working hard this past off-season since his USA win on improving key areas, and you'll see a marked difference in his back, chest, shoulders, and arms - basically trying to match his upper body to those ridiculous legs of his. One major change we made to his training was with his volume. I'm an advocate of volume training in general, but I felt the way Jason was structuring his workouts was counterproductive. He was typically doing 7-9 work sets per exercise, pyramiding up and then back down. That worked well for the first couple exercises for any given bodypart, but after that he'd be starting to fatigue rapidly. What we've done is to limit the work sets to four so he stays strong throughout the entire workout. The mass he's added in just the last couple months is a testament to this decision being the right one. We've also started adding in some FST-7 sets to help give him a rounder, fuller look. Jason is still young and has plenty of time to make gains, but we do want to make the most of it and the plan is to actually have him grow into the New York Pro.
Hany, I have been having a really tough time getting a pump lately. I don't know if I'm doing something wrong. Usually I will have a couple cups of coffee with my pre-workout meal about two hours before the workout, then I take (popular pre-workout formula, name withheld). I eat plenty of carbs and even when I do my 7's, I hardly get a pump. Is there some other supplement I should be taking to maximize my pump?
I'm going to recommend the cheapest supplement you've ever heard of: water! Hydration is key when it comes to achieving quality pumps in the muscle when training. Caffeine has a strong diuretic effect, meaning it causes your body to expel water. The pre-workout formula you're currently taking is also loaded with caffeine. As I've explained before, this may give you a stimulant effect, but it's totally counterproductive toward getting a pump, which is why my EVP pre-workout product is caffeine-free. Beyond that, I am guessing you don't drink enough water. Most bodybuilders don't. It's one of those things, like protein intake, that a lot of athletes think they're getting adequate amounts but they're not. Without weighing your food and measuring your water, it's easy to overestimate. I usually have my clients drink 3-4 liters of water from the time they wake up until their workout, assuming they train in the afternoon. If you're doing a high volume of cardio and sweating more, or if you're in a hot climate, you might need even more than that to be properly hydrated. How crucial is this? I've had situations where I'm training athletes and after the first exercise has been completed, they still don't have the slightest pump. What I do is stop the workout, have them drink a liter to a liter and a half of water, and then re-start the workout all over again. 95% of the time, that's all it takes for them to start getting a pump. Their energy levels are also higher, and we see more fullness in the muscle bellies. So there's your answer to why you're not getting a pump!
I've been stuck at 220 pounds as my off-season weight for going on four months now, and it's starting to get very frustrating. I eat every three hours, with plenty of lean protein and clean carbs at every meal. If I try to eat any more carbs than I already do, I get bloated and it kills my appetite so I have to wait longer between meals. Can you have me any suggestions?
Most of the time I have to advise people to clean up their diet, but in your case I think you might be eating 'too clean.' Obviously you aren't able to gain on the amount of calories you're taking in right now. The best way to do that would be in the form of healthy fats. Instead of using Pam spray to cook your foods, start using extra virgin olive oil (extra virgin is derived from the first pressing of the olives, and has more flavor and antioxidants than regular olive oil). You can also sauté all your vegetables in olive oil instead of steaming them for additional calories. Olive oil and some balsamic vinegar also makes a very tasty, and healthy salad dressing. You can also add healthy fat calories in the form of nuts (walnuts are best as they contain more Omega-3 fatty acids), or various nut butters like natural peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter, as well as avocados. Go for fattier fish like salmon or mackerel instead of lighter fare like tilapia or cod. Last but certainly not least, don't be afraid to have a cheat meal 2-3 times a week. I usually advise a big burger made from high-quality ground sirloin, which you can make yourself of find at any decent restaurant. As I've said here before, fast-food burgers tend to be made from very low-grade beef.
I'm a bodybuilder and my girlfriend is a Figure competitor, and we'll both soon be starting our diets for the same contest. Pizza is a big downfall for both of us. We both love it and use it for our cheat meal once a week, but the problem is that we both eat way too much of it and then have to cut carbs and do extra cardio trying to make up for the binge. Is there a cleaner way to make our own pizzas so we can stop sabotaging our diets?
Yes there is. You can start either with one of those thin crusts you can buy at the supermarket such as the ones from Boboli, or you can use pita bread like some Figure competitors I work with prefer to. On top of that you put either tomato or barbecue sauce, then add mozzarella cheese. The toppings are up to you, but you can add diced chicken breast or steak. I know Figure girls who put salmon on their pizza, but that must be an acquired taste! Get yourself a baking stone to set the pizza on when you put it in the oven, as this draws out more moisture from the crust so you end up with something that tastes just like it came from a brick-oven pizzeria - except you won't blow your diet!
Hany, I am having a lot of trouble sleeping. I've tried products with melatonin, GABA, and L-Tryptophan. They all help a little bit, but I know I need to sleep to recover and grow and right now I am sure my crappy sleep quality is holding back my gains.
I gave the first guy this month a very inexpensive supplement for better pumps (water), and now I have a cheap supplement that will help improve your sleep quality - sugar! Yes, sugar will spike your insulin levels and knock you right out and into dreamland. What you want is a high-GI sugar with no fat, since fat will blunt the insulin release. Luckily, just head over to the diet foods section of your supermarket. One way a lot of 'fat-free' products like cookies and cake can still taste so delicious is that they are packed full of sugar. Read the labels and go for products with all carbs and no fat, and any one of them will be a perfect 'supplement' to get you sleeping soundly, and growing; again.
Originally published May 2011.