What Is R.E.A.L. Functional Training?
By Tyler Bramlett
You’re currently at LeanHybridMuscle.com, which tells me one thing…
You want to build dense muscle that looks as good as it performs! And today I wanna share with you a few ways you can accelerate your results even further by doing what I call R.E.A.L. Functional Training.
Before I get into what R.E.A.L. Functional Training really is let me tell you what it isn’t…
You see, I was hanging with Mike in Florida earlier this year when he asked me about the programs I create for my tribe. I began talking about all the things I integrate into my training and kept repeating the word, “functional” over and over.
At one point I stopped and saw the look on his face that said to me, what the heck do you mean by functional?
Most people when they hear functional training think about those lame exercises done with a pink band while standing on a half inflated disc. This is not what I am referring to at all!!
To me functional training doesn’t mean doing ridiculous movements with unpredictable surfaces at relatively low intensities. It means strengthening your body to move gracefully through a full range of motion while using the most basic movement patterns.
This is how I train my clients to build lean, strong muscles that look as good as they perform and the rest of this article is dedicated to teaching you how to use R.E.A.L. Functional Training in your workouts.
Here’s how I now define R.E.A.L. Functional Training:
Executed With Perfect Form
At A High Intensity
Leaving You With A Body That Looks As Good As It Performs
I’m gonna break down each component of this system and let you know exactly how you can apply this in your training to build lean strong muscles that look good and perform even better. Let’s get started…
Performing realistic movements means not doing things just for the sake of making them more and more ridiculous. Doing a weighted barbell overhead squat while standing on a swiss ball doesn’t exactly seem like a realistic movement to me.
Think back to the time when you were standing on an inflatable sphere holding a heavy weight overhead in the bottom of a squat…
Ohhh… That’s right… You can’t… Because it will never happen!!
Now on the other hand, if you avoid learning how to do a perfect overhead squat, you may leave yourself vulnerable to injuries if the workout or task demands stability, mobility and strength in your shoulders, spine, hips and ankles.
So to me, you have to be judicial. You have to ask yourself is this exercise benefiting me as a whole or just ridiculous. Is the movement you are practicing realistic or ridiculous?
Here are just a few realistic movements you should be practicing in your workouts to build functional lean muscle; handstands, one arm dumbbell exercises, one leg squats and deadlifts, gymnastic ring work, strongman training, sandbag lifting and more…
Here are the movements I see as ridiculous and a total waste of time; anything done with a pink band (unless instructed by an intelligent physical therapist), anything that combines an unstable surface with and unstable object (like kneeling swiss ball kettlebell bottoms up presses), anything that you’ve never seen anyone else do with a relatively high intensity or load (if someone out there doesn’t go heavy don’t be the first, otherwise it might be your last lift) and more…
So train realistic, not ridiculous.
Executed With Perfect Form
Everyone these days has something to say about form. Some camps tweak and tweak over and over again trying to get everything perfect before ever adding load. Other communities believe that if you body can move into a range of motion you should strengthen it.
The problem is that they are both right. You do need to always strive toward having perfect form on all of your movements. And a better way to say form is skill or technique. The best lifters of all time were all focused on the skill of their movements. At the highest levels it’s the only way (barring a trip to the pharmacist) to increase your performance. But many people acquire paralysis by analysis when trying to master form.
Most world-class athletes and world-class movers didn’t start out that way. You see, you can really only change one or two habits at the same time. And by accepting this limitation we can realize that you can progress in terms of movement capacity (i.e. reps, sets and weight) as well as movement competency (i.e. technique of a movement) at the same time.
So where does this leave you? You should focus on increasing the reps, sets, weight or volume as well as work on your technical skill of each exercise to get the best results possible.
As for the “bad form is OK” camp. I believe that if you get your form to OK levels, you will be safe to increase intensity without the risk of injury and over time you can boos your technique to levels that equate to mastery!
At A High Intensity
This is where I see the “functional” training wagon wheels fall right off…
We can all agree that your body adapts to the stresses we put on it. Right? Let’s take these 2 scenarios…
Imagine if you deadlifted heavy every week for a couple years, with good form, your body will get really good at deadlifting heavy. Right?
Now imagine if for the same 2 years all you did was rep out on the deadlift with bright orange dumbbells while standing on an inflatable disc while your friend pulls on your torso with a pink band. You will probably get good at repping out on the deadlift with bright orange dumbbells while standing on an inflatable disc while your friend pulls on your torso with a pink band. Right?
Now imagine whose strength would carry over more?
Would the person who regularly lifts 4 or 500lbs off the ground be able to perform the orange dumbbell, air disc, band pulled deadlift?
I would say with a week or so of practice he would be considering this exercise an absolute joke. Right?
So, what about the guy who rips at the orange dumbbell, air disc, band pulled deadlift, how long would it take him to learn how to pull 4 or 500lbs?
Well, I would wager to say that it would take him many years if he was ever able to get there without getting distracted by the latest greatest “functional” movement that solves all your problems.
Here’s my point on this…
If you can’t perform the exercise at a high intensity (meaning add weight, volume, density, etc.) then it’s likely not a R.E.A.L. Functional Training exercise.
Ditch the Barbie dumbbells and learn how to move massive loads on one of the realistic movements listed above.
Leaving You With A Body That Looks As Good As It Performs
Let’s face it, the reason why you’ve read this far is because you catch what I’m throwing, you are like me in that you think outside the box and you probably enjoy the thought of spitting in the mainstream “fitness” industries face and training hard. But, you still wanna look good naked, right?
Well here’s the good news… Looking good in front of the mirror is a direct reflection of the quality of the muscle that you build. Sure, you can go out there and kill it on volume for your biceps and they will get bigger. But developing a dense, lean body involves more then chasing the pump. It requires dedication, strength, and fortitude and for you to use your brain to discover the best programs that work for you.
By using the principals of R.E.A.L. Functional Training you will develop a world-class body that looks good and performs even better!
Now get out there and do some R.E.A.L. Functional Training!!!
By Ben Teal, Certified Metabolic Trainer
Creator of the Metabolic Mayhem System
Orange smoke billows out as the emcee hypes up the 200 or so folks that have gathered in the starting stall…
“I’m going to be honest with you folks…” he begins over the loud speaker. “Cover the kids ears. Got ‘em covered? Good. Because you should know, sh*t is getting real out here.”
I could feel my pulse starting to accelerate.
“I have broken collarbones. I have dislocated elbows. This isn’t for the weak.”
His voice faded into the distance as my tunnel vision set in. For the past 6 months I’d trained for this moment.
I’d never run a race like this. Scratch that. I’d never run a race farther than 100 yards. And just a few years earlier, I had weighed over 300 pounds.
And here I was, 12 miles from the finish line. 25 obstacles and endless mud and cold water stood between me and that goal.
But I was prepared and confident.
The crowd surged forward. We were off.
I remember the first time I spoke to Elliot Hulse. I’m not sure what I expected. Westy had warned me that Elliot was – how should we say it – passionate.
And that’s captivating about Elliot. The passion and enthusiasm is at the very core of his training philosophy.
I’d describe it as “Give it all you got. No excuses.”
As we talked about his background and the evolution of Lean-Hybrid muscle, I realized that we shared a similar training approach.
Don’t get me wrong. I own no tractor tires. And I don’t haul Atlas stones around.
But I am a firm believer in hybrid movements.
About 6-miles in, I heard shouting. As I emerged from the dense forest-slash-swamp, I saw a mass of people gathered at the entrance to the next obstacle.
As I closed the distance stride-by-stride, I could hear a distinct “pop”. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, though I knew I’d never heard anything exactly like it.
Each “pop” was immediately followed by shouting and cursing.
And then I saw it. The ‘Electric Eel’.
A low crawl beneath barb-wire. And dangling from the barb-wire, about every 12-inches, were short, yellow wires that extended to the ground.
That’s the sound of the electricity pulsing through those wires. It wasn’t continuous. Random surges of electricity.
But, as long as you were under the barb-wire, you were a candidate for a nice shock.
As I entered the obstacle, I decided I was going to get it one way or the other, so no use being tentative. I went in with abandon.
My legs and arms were pumping furiously as I slithered forward.
And then I got trapped…
The more muscles and joints you can include in a workout, the more potentially metabolic that workout is.
And, by extension, the more muscles you can incorporate into an exercise, the more metabolic it becomes.
Bicep curls aren’t very metabolic. Put that curl at the top of a dumbbell Romanian dead-lift, and you’ve exponentially increased the metabolic potential.
Now, increase the intensity such that the weights you are using allow for a rep range of 8 to 10 (moderate intensity), and you can set your metabolism on fire.
You can melt massive amounts of fat this way. But more than that, you can get faster, stronger and build your muscular endurance.
In much less time that a typical workout.
But there’s still one more element that you need for true Metabolic Mayhem.
The guy in front of me is exhausted and paralyzed with fear. He won’t move. He was shocked earlier in the obstacle and now is in a spot where he feels ‘safe.’
Many of us would have done the same thing. But I had trained to push myself to my physical limit.
My head slammed into the ground. A live, yellow wire was sitting on my left trap. I figured I had about 10 seconds until the next shock.
“Keep moving!” I shouted! “You’ve got to go!”
Face first into the mud again.
At that point, I lurched forward, placed my hand on this dude’s rump and propelled him forward. I had places to go.
The rest of the day was filled with walls, tunnels, rope climbs, cargo nets and mud. And carrying or dragging heavy things.
Now, let’s say you do a seat of dumbbell bench presses, stand up, and do a set of goblet squats.
The blood that rushed to your chest is not rushing to your legs. Your body is working harder shuffling the blood from place to place. That’s a big reason why workouts (and exercises) that use lots of muscle are more metabolic.
Strategically, you want to cycle the workout so that your body is moving the blood around as much as possible. That’s why you see a lot of metabolic workout programs doing things like shoulder presses followed by squats.
But these workouts are missing a key ingredient. They’ve only nailed one cycle.
What makes Metabolic Mayhem unique, and allows even the busiest folks to shed their unwanted fat in workouts that last 20 minutes (or less!) is the Layered Cycle System.
Your body works differently when it’s in a horizontal position than when it’s in a vertical position. In fact, moving from the horizontal plane to the vertical plane itself is a lot of work.
That’s why to create true Metabolic Mayhem, not only do you need to cycle between upper body and lower body, but you also need to simultaneously layer on a cycle that moves you through both the horizontal and vertical planes.
That’s why exercises like burpees are so awesome. And burpees with a push up are better. And “Man Makers” are brutal.
Cycling through your workout in this manner allows you to all but eliminate ‘down time’. The muscle you just worked is resting while you’re working the next group of muscles.
The Metabolic Mayhem Layered Cycle System allowed me to prepare to tackle the obstacles in that Tough Mudder race with ease.
Not only was I at my lightest weight in 15 years (I’d lost more than 100 pounds from my max at that point using Metabolic Mayhem training), my muscular endurance was significantly improved.
In fact, a recent shocking study backs up that 4-minute Metabolic Mayhem style workouts outperform 30-minutes of endurance training in terms of muscular endurance and overall enjoyment. [Journal of Applied Physiology in Nutrition and Metabolism (Volume 37(6):1124-31)]
So, brass tacks time. What does a Metabolic Mayhem workout look like? Here a sample Metabolic Mayhem workout that includes some Hybrid Movements.
Start with a highly Metabolic Move like the dead-lift (or, if you prefer, picking up atlas stones or flipping tires). You’re going to choose a weight you can do for 12 reps.
Do 3 sets of 10 reps (you want to leave a little in the tank for the next two sets). Do the reps as quickly as you can with good form. Rest 30 to 45 seconds between sets.
Now, you’re going to do a Metabolic Shape Circuit. This is going to be a 10-Minute ‘As Many Rounds as Possible’ circuit that follows the Layered Cycle System with a Hybrid Interrupt in the middle.
Dumbbell Bench Press x 10
Goblet Squat x 10
Hybrid Interrupt: Burpees with Push Ups x 10
Reverse Lunge x 10
Plank x 30 seconds
Hybrid Interrupt: Box Jumps x 10
Rest only as needed. Once you feel recovered, continue. Do as many circuits as you can complete in 10 minutes.
Since you’re using weight you can do for 12 reps puts you’re working with 70% of your one-rep-max weight, on the Hybrid scale, these workouts are ‘moderate’ intensity.
They’re also high volume and minimal rest interval.
I designed them for people like you.
People that are busy and don’t have hours to spend in the gym.
Busy moms and dads that want to shed their unwanted fat and keep it off.
People that want functional bodies that look amazing on the beach.
People that like a challenge and don’t mind putting their bodies to the test.
People that want to cross the finish line with a smile on their faces.
A few years earlier, I was over 300 pounds and struggling to find my way in a fitness world that didn’t have a program for people like me.
And now, here I was, chugging my second Dos Equis, sporting my orange headband, and grinning from ear to ear.
The point? Metabolic Mayhem changed my life. It carried me along that journey – from 300+ pounds all the way to that day (and 5 more adventure obstacle races after it).
Let’s face it. Being fat and out of shape sucks. Take a step toward changing your body now.
by: Nick Nilsson
Building muscle and strength doesn’t have to be complicated! In fact, it can be downright “paint by numbers” simple.
And the best “simple” method I’ve found for building muscle and strength like clockwork is “Density Training.”
There are a variety of different density training frameworks that have been popularized by many different trainers, but at its simplest, density training is basically making your body do more work in the same (or less) time.
The idea is to force progressive overload on your muscles in a very strategic and very predictable way.
Now granted, there’s nothing flashy about this style of training…you’re not going to impress anybody at the gym by doing density training. This style of training is all about building a base of strength and mass over time…and THAT is the kind of mass and strength that STICKS.
So let’s get right into my favorite style of density training that I call Time-Volume Training.
T/V Training is simple…and EXTREMELY effective.
It’s going to take literally ALL the guesswork out of your training. You’ll know exactly what weight to use, how long to rest and when to increase the weight to achieve that progressive overload.
T/V Training is based on blocks of time…15 minutes for large muscle groups like back, chest and thighs…7 ½ minutes for smaller parts like biceps, triceps, calves, hamstrings and shoulders.
The first time you do this type of training, select one exercise and select a weight you could do a normal set with for 10 to 12 reps. The beauty of this system is, it doesn’t matter if you screw up the weight on the first workout…it will autocorrect itself quickly.
Set your timer for 15 minutes (or keep track on a clock – I HIGHLY recommend a timer, though).
Now you’re going to see exactly how simple and elegant Time-Volume Training is…
Perform 3 reps of that exercise and stop. Now rest 10 seconds.
Perform 3 MORE reps of that exercise and stop. Rest 10 seconds.
Repeat your 3 rep sets on 10 seconds rest until you can no longer get 3 reps.
When you hit this point, you will then start taking 20 SECONDS rest in between sets. Continue with your 3 rep sets from there, now resting 20 seconds in between sets.
You may start seeing a pattern developing here…
If you get to the point where you can no longer get 3 reps on 20 seconds rest, increase to 30 seconds rest and keep going. Then 40 seconds rest, etc.
Continue this pattern until your 15 minutes are up (7 ½ if you’re doing a smaller bodypart).
This system forces you to “front load” your work, doing the majority of your sets when you’re fresher and stronger. Then, as you fatigue, it spaces out the sets more, allowing you to continue adding on the training volume without trashing your nervous system.
When to Increase The Weight
Determining when to increase weight is something that a lot of trainers struggle with, especially those interested in building maximum strength. The temptation is always there to use more and more weight…and do it too soon.
This will set you back faster than just about anything.
With T/V Training, it’s simple…if you were able to make it 1/3 of the way through that block of time (5 minutes) keeping to 10 seconds rest, when you perform your next workout, increase the weight by about 10%.
If you didn’t make it 1/3 of the way through and had to increase your rest before then, stay at the same weight until you CAN make it 1/3 of the way through.
Very simple. Very effective.
It’s literally a pass/fail standard to determine when you can increase the weight. There are no charts or tables or 1 RM calculations to worry about. You just perform the exercise blocks and strive to do more work in that same amount of time.
THIS is what forces continuous adaptation in the body, and it will literally force your body to build muscle and strength in a very predictable fashion.
What Exercises To Use
I highly recommend sticking to the basics for this style of training…heavy compound exercises like squats, front squats, bench press, deadlifts, chin-ups, shoulder presses, close grip bench press, barbell curls, stiff-legged deadlifts, etc.
You want to target maximum muscle fibers when you’re doing this training and isolation exercises aren’t going to cut it.
I definitely recommend using the same exercises on a weekly basis rather than including a lot of variety. You want your body to know exactly what it has to adapt to and jumping around to a lot of different exercises won’t accomplish this.
Choose two exercises for each bodypart and work them for 4 to 6 weeks straight. You will be AMAZED at the results this limited approach will give you.
I like to use a very simple 4 day training split with T/V Training: 2 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on, 2 days off.
This is just a suggestion, and you can absolutely come up with your own split.
On Day 1, do a 15 minute block each of chest and back, then a 7 ½ minute block of biceps and one of triceps. This gives you 45 minutes total training time (you can take a few minutes rest in between T/V blocks of each bodypart).
On Day 2, do a 15 minute block for thighs, then a 7 ½ minute block for shoulders, hamstrings and calves. This will give you 37 ½ minutes of training time, allowing you some room for core training and/or forearm and grip work.
Day 3 is off.
Day 4, repeat the structure of Day 1, using different exercises for each bodypart.
Day 5, repeat Day 2, using different exercises again.
Follow this split for 4 to 6 weeks and you will really see the power of Density Training and progressive overload at work.
When you use Time-Volume Training, you will build muscle and strength like clockwork, you won’t need to use near-maximal weights to build mass and strength (which will save your nervous system), and you will substantially improve your exercise form (you’ll be getting a LOT of practice with moderate weight using perfect form).
And If you’re coming off a very heavy cycle and your body needs a break from it, this is absolutely the style of training you need to use.
If you’re interested in a full program designed around Time-Volume Training, I would definitely recommend checking out my Mad Scientist Muscle program.
It uses Time-Volume Training, along with the proven training principles of Accumulation and Intensification, to build muscle and strength FAST.
In addition, Mad Scientist Muscle uses targeted training to attack the four major physiological attributes in your body that you can CHANGE to better set the stage for muscle growth…your connective tissue, your circulatory system, your nervous system efficiency and your muscle fascia.
This program puts it all together for you.
Build Monster Mass With Science Based Training
What I like and what I don’t like about the new BENCH MODE program that utilizes a powerbodybuilding approach for upping your bench press while adding strength and size to your frame.
I got this from the new BENCH MODE program…it’s right on the money. If you’re gonna max out this weekend here’s how to do it.
ATTEMPTING A MAX
When attempting a maximum, things will be a little different than when working out. First, do two warm-up sets with 50% and a third set if you need it. Then begin your climb.
Set #1: 75% for 3 reps
Set #2: 80% for 3 reps
Set #3: 85% for 1 rep
Set #4: 90% for 1 rep
Set #5: 95% for 1 rep
Set #6: Set a new max by at least 10-20 lbs.
Do this for both the bench and squat. Don’t do anything else afterwards.
NOTE: Be sure to have a training partner present so that they can spot you. Be upbeat and pumped. Listen to your favorite music. Wear your favorite shorts or whatever it takes to make you feel totally confident and ready.
Once you have set your new max you are ready for Cycle #3 of Bench Mode. Even if you fail to set a new max, continue on to the 3rd cycle. Remember getting stronger takes months and years, not just days and weeks.
I you want to win the unavoidable pull up contest at the beach and win the crown of Alpha Male watch this Yo Elliott video below to find out how you can do more chin ups.
Use This To Win Pull Up & Push Up Contests
Here’s another one from the mail bag for you!
Q. Greeting from Italy. I have a simple yet complicated problem.
I’ll try being as brief and comprehensive as possible. I’m 23 yrs old. I do my Cardio religiously 3-4 times a week. I don’t have access to a gym. Actually I love freehand exercises (without weights like push up/ pull ups). My back when seen in the mirror shows my Shoulder blades sticking out.. feel like a famished boy.
Is there any way I can build the back specifically making those shoulder blades disappear in the back… I wanna a CLEAN neat back.
I used to do pull ups both with palms facing me and more-than shoulder span pull’ups with the bar ending in the front to the chest! My wings are still visible… This was a long time ago… Do you think this is what I should start again?? Can push ups help as well??
Could you please suggest some great freehand exercise to get lean and toned I’d say…not too bulky (I’m a car designer… no macho man). Awaiting your reply… desperately…Thank you very much for your time.
Westy’s Answer. There is one thing in particular that I can think of that will help you get into some kind of shape using just bodyweight only exercises to help you get leaned and toned and develop as you say, a CLEAN neat back.
A few years ago a Dr. Frank I. Katch and his brother Victor (both of whom hold EdD, and PhD in exercise science and physical education respectively) developed a unique formula as it applies to bodyweight only exercises.
The formula is based on the Exercise / Rest principle and it goes something like this. As a starting point you must pick out a non-apparatus exercise such as a bodyweight only Pull-ups (any non-apparatus exercise will suffice: Pull-ups, Crunches, Dips between two chairs, One-Leg Heel Raises, Leg Raises, Pushups, One-Leg Squats and Sissy Squats).
Using the Pull-up as an example, begin by performing this exercise for as many ultra-strict repetitions as possible within a 10 second time frame, Now rest for exactly I0 seconds; after the 10 second rest, immediately begin to perform some more Pull-ups for I0 seconds, then take another 10-second rest.
Continue this pattern of I0 seconds of exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest for 9 more complete cycles, for a total of 10. On each of the succeeding five days you increase the number of cycles by two.
This stage, as well as stages 3, 4, and 5, consists of 6 workout days and begins with 10 cycles of work and rest, increasing to 20 cycles by day six, The noted difference in this stage and the stages to follow are varying degrees of rest between each cycle. Within this stage (2) you will perform 15 seconds of exercise and take 10 seconds of rest per cycle,
At this stage you switch to 20 seconds of exercise and take 10 seconds of rest per cycle.
Now you do 30 seconds of exercise and take 10 seconds of rest per cycle.
In the last stage you do 30 seconds of exercise and take 5 seconds of rest per cycle.
To summarize, here are the steps for successfully completing the five stages of the exercise/rest principle.
I. Each individual stage (I-5) consists of 6 non-consecutive workout days in a two week time frame. The workouts could be performed on a (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Rest days include: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
2. Begin each new stage on day 1 by doing a minimum of I0 nonstop sequences of the exer¬cise/rest principle, then on each scheduled workout day thereafter be sure to add 2 non¬stop sequences (as in the detailed stage 1 example).
3. Always do as many ultra-strict repetitions as possible during the work phase.
Follow the Exercise/Rest Formula as described and you discover a renewed interest in performing Bodyweight Only exercises especially as it applies to Pull-ups and Pushups and the development of the musculature of your back.
If you need some extra inspiration check out
my friend Shawna who can probably do more pull ups than you!
Guest post by Dave Hall, Hybrid Certified Trainer & Co-Author of THINK! and Lose Weight
Believe it or not, I was a fat kid growing up.
I’m 40, now, but I grew up in an era when big kids wore jeans that came in a size category labeled “husky.” They might as well have called them “fat boy” jeans. We all knew that’s what they meant.
As a child I hated my size. It gave the other kids something to pick on me about and, as a result, my self esteem suffered, which only added to the hard knocks I endured growing up.
To make matters worse I felt powerless to do anything about it. Food was one of the few refuges I had open to me. It became a drug and a way to, temporarily at least, make myself feel better. The self control I needed to curb my intake was non-existent.
So, when I tell you I know first hand the struggles of fat loss and regaining control of your life. I know of which I speak.
Think! And Lose Weight: the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Weight Loss is more than just a weight loss book, although it is this as well. Think! And Lose Weight is a success book. In it the methods of success are applied to weight loss.
I was a very active kid, my problem was I just ate too much and of all the wrong stuff. To make matters worse, everyone had advice, my mother, my grandmother, even complete strangers were all too eager to offer well meaning suggestions on how to lose weight. Lack of knowledge wasn’t my problem.
The secrets of fat loss are not secret. Even as a nine year old boy I knew that eating less and doing more would result in weight loss. The secrets of success are not secret either. From Napoleon Hill to Tony Robbins the keys to reaching your goals have been promoted and expounded upon time and time again.
In both areas, success and fat loss, knowledge will only carry you so far. It’s what you do that makes the difference between achieving your goals and maintaining the status quo.
Think! And Lose Weight might not have done me much good as a nine year old boy. I was smart, but not that smart. Many of the lessons that this book teaches are the lessons of adulthood and maybe, not appropriate for a boy, yet. It would, however, have planted the seeds to produce a kick ass adult.
Fat loss and success are rich mines for both marketers and publishers. The reason is that while the fundamentals are easy to say, they’re hard to do. As consumers we are all unhappy with our current lot and looking for ways to change. There are many who will take advantage of this and just rephrase fundamental advice and market it in a manner that makes it look like the latest and greatest secret.
Think! And Lose Weight does more than just repeat the fundamentals, it gives practical advice and seeks to bridge the divide between saying and doing.
It teaches the tools of life transformation. Use them to get your weight under control and then use these same lessons to achieve any other goal your heart desires.
A review of Nick Nilsson’s Muscle Explosion Course by Mike Westerdal
Muscles are kind of like people—they get bored doing the same thing day in and day out. And just like us, when they get bored, they stop producing the results we want. That is a key reason why lots of guys have a tough time gaining muscle mass. They lift and lift and lift but don’t get big. In many instances such as these, an ‘ordinary’ routine is the culprit.
Remember that muscle fibers get bigger and stronger in response to the stress they’re placed under by lifting weights. If your weight training routine doesn’t shock your muscle fibers into to growth, you’ll never achieve your muscle mass goals.
Fortunately, there are some very knowledgeable trainers out there who understand this very simple—but extremely important—fundamental concept. Nick Nilsson is one guy who not only understands this key mass gaining principle, but has mastered it better than just about anyone. Nick shows us just how well he understands the keys to explosive muscle growth in his latest work, Muscle Explosion: 28 days to maximum mass.
If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while you are probably familiar with Nick because I’ve written about him several times. Nick is an experienced weight lifter with a degree in physical education and psychology. He’s also a personal trainer and has written a number of weight training books, including Mad Scientist Muscle: Build monster mass with science-based training.
Nick’s goal with Muscle Explosion is to show you how to pack on at least 10 pounds of lean muscle mass in just 28 days. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—one of the things I really like about Nick’s approach to mass gaining is that his techniques are based on science and experience. He doesn’t promote fads. The secret to the mass-building success of Muscle Explosion are the highly-targeted, strategic changes in both training technique and nutrition. Nick says that the goal of the program is to drive the growth of lean muscle mass by constantly keeping your body off balance with intelligent change.
The book is broken down into four modules:
1) the program;
3) nutrition; and
The program section outlines the basics of Nick’s approach and discusses why it works so well. The Muscle Explosion program is broken down into three phases that take place over four weeks. Week one focuses on Metabolic Acceleration and Tissue Remodeling Training, week two is all about the 5-Day Structural Attack and in weeks three and four, the focus is on Stretch-Pause Training.
The Muscle Explosion program is highly structured, but Nick does a great job of keeping things simple and easy to follow. You don’t feel like you need a PhD to keep up with what he says because in the first section of the book, the program is laid out using simple charts that outline exactly what you need to be doing each of the 28 days.
In this first section, Nick also provides a nice overview of why the program works the way it does. He goes through each Muscle Explosion phase and offers a concise overview of its fundamental principles and what you need to do at this stage of the program.
Afterwards, he jumps into the exercise and training techniques portion of the book. This is a very in-depth section that is packed with a lot of information. For each exercise he includes photos and a clear description of how to properly perform the movement. You’ll never have to worry about getting bored because there are lots to choose from.
The Nutrition section is broken down into seven sub-sections that clearly lay out the nutritional secrets to gaining lean muscle mass. Like the workouts, Nick’s approach to bodybuilding nutrition is based on continuous, strategic changes that keep the metabolism in high gear, burning fat and building muscle. The Workout section includes training routines for every day of the program. Again, he uses easy-to-understand charts to make it easy for you to follow the program. He also includes comments and suggestions with each daily workout.
The Extras section includes a link to a comprehensive online exercise database, answers to frequently asked questions and more. Nick also throws in a few bonuses too that make the already-valuable program even more worthwhile.
I’m very happy to again highly recommend Nick’s work. Muscle Explosion is a great program that can produce fantastic results. Be forewarned though, Muscle Explosion isn’t a program that you can just casually follow and expect to gain 28 pounds of lean muscle mass—if you want to see results, you’re going to have apply yourself, work hard, be disciplined and stick with the program until the end.
Question: Mike, I went to your website and purchased the Chuck Sipes Power Storm package and really enjoyed reading it. In it were some training routines with heavy lifts using cheating movement. In another magazine that I was reading it said that a person should never use a cheat movement as it could cause injury. Chuck Sipes liked to use cheat exercises from time to time and recommended them, what do you think?
Mike’s Answer: Cheating exercises (loose style training) or the serial distortion technique as I prefer to call it and as it applies to hardcore bodybuilding is the momentary loss of the precision biomechanical integrity of the structured exercise movement. This definition sounds way more complicated than it is to do.
For example on just about all types of rowing, curling, pressing overhead, and various laterals and or front raises for example you will (in a rhythmic rocking motion) bend forward at the waist. Then with a controlled, note I said controlled, thrust of your body, get the weight moving through the sticking point as you bend backwards slightly.
Of course on a movement like heavy standing Barbell triceps extensions you would reverse the order of the bending at the waist (lean back, body thrust forward, lean forward). On bench pressing some power-bodybuilders will lower the bar quickly down to their abdominal region and by simultaneously arching the back and a mighty thrust of abdominal power, drive the barbell upwards to lockout.
I would have to agree that cheating or serial distortion in the exercises I have just mentioned are to the untrained eye, exaggerated body movements and yes, they do give a micro-second of mechanical advantage for bypassing a sticking point of the lift, but never at the expense of decreasing maximum tension within the muscle cell structure. The late Chuck Sipes told me on numerous occasions that cheating exercises have a very definite value (develops tendon and ligament power) and place in a training program as does “strict” exercises and you can see this in the program designs in the, “Chuck Sipes Power Storm” package.
I have to agree with Chucks take on “cheating” and “strict” movements because a body is only as strong as its weakest link. And the honest truth is that if each and every rep of a set were done in strict form, it would entail using poundage so light, future muscle growth would stall. I recommend doing 70% of your reps of a set in a fairly strict manner then finishing off with 30% controlled cheating reps.
If I were going to suggest an exclusive strategy for doing pure cheating or serial distortion sets it would be to use accelerated high speed (2 seconds or less) in the positive phase of each rep coupled with slow negative returns of around 4 seconds. Pure cheating in this manner has a control time factor of 3-6 workouts.
As an interesting side note and answer closure to your question I have observed many power-bodybuilding champions over the years that use what seems like horrendous forms of cheating in their exercises but yet when they compete in say a power-lift meet where each lift has a title and a code of conduct for performance they do exceptionally well. This is probable because the cheating conditioned their muscles to deal with heavier resistance such as the case would be in power lifting.