All Strength Training Core Challenge July

July Challenge: The Core Challenge

As easy as it is to write off “core training” as just another trendy way to get personal trainers to add another certification to their wall and a few extra letters on their business cards, it’s also not enough to treat core training as another name for abdominal training.  Also, while we often hear that big exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses are great for developing core strength (and they are), that only works if you know how to use your core muscles during those types of lifts.

For our purposes, we’re going to define “the core” as anything responsible for stabilizing the lower spine, the hips, and the pelvis.  More than just the visible abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, if you’re fancy), it also includes the external obliques, the transverse abdominis (the deep abdominals that you can’t see), your erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, and the glutes – medius, minimus, and maximus.

Why Should You Do Core Training?

The primary benefits we’re going to be aiming for during the Core Challenge are going to be:

  • Improved breathing patterns, including better use of the diaphragm
  • Better posture
  • Reduction in back and hip pain or discomfort
  • Stronger glutes and abdominals
  • Better integration of the core into larger lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses

What Is the Core Challenge?

The Core Challenge involves training these muscles 6 days per week, with one full day of rest, using short workouts and steady progressions.  Instead of doing longer workouts less often, training muscles that you struggle to use well allows you to practice more often and retain the patterns better, no differently than practicing a golf swing, playing an instrument, or learning a new language.

Want to get started? Download the Core Challenge program here.

You can find the video demonstrations for each movement on our YouTube page on our Core Challenge playlist.  Videos will be added one week at a time.



NEAT challenge

March Challenge: The NEAT Challenge

Tomorrow we will be starting a new challenge for the month of March – our NEAT Challenge! It’s free, it’s simple, and it’s open to everybody.

For this month’s challenge, we wanted to take a step back from a focus on our training.

It’s extremely easy to get wrapped up in how much we train – how often we lift weights, how often we do cardio, how much ab work we do – IT’S IN OUR NAME, for Pete’s sake.

But, particularly in the winter months, we can get so wrapped up in our training and exercise that we forget about our activity levels. It’s cold out, so you stop biking or walking to work and start taking the train, you walk your dog a little less, you don’t go to the park or get involved with a weekend rec league; instead, you replace those things with an extra half an hour on a warm couch, in front of a fireplace… why it’s not called “Netflix and warm” I will never understand.

Yet when our activity levels dip down like that, it can require other changes to offset it – maybe a little less food, or another workout each week. And with those reduced calories or increased training stress comes a reduction in your ability to recover. You ache a bit more, you get hungrier more quickly, you feel a bit more sluggish in the middle of the afternoon.

What we want to do is increase something called NEAT – short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. What does that mean? It means, the calories we burn just by doing things that don’t require any recovery – it’s not exercise or training, it’s just activity. Neat, huh? (I AM THE BEST AT PUNS)

In fact, it’s been shown that increasing your NEAT will actually help you recover more from your training and allows you to keep your food intake higher with no loss of progress. It’s not stressful on your body, it’s just… moving.

Here is the plan:

Week 1: Using a pedometer (you can buy one to keep on your hip, or you can use one on your phone – provided your phone is always on you, which may not be the case), you’ll track the number of steps you take each day. After 7 days, you’ll find the average number of steps you take in a given day.

Each week, your goal will be to increase the number of steps you take each day by 1,000. If your average was 2,000 in Week 1, your goal is 3,000. Pretty simple step. (HA!)

By the end of the month, that should put your daily average a full 3,000 steps (or more) higher than where you started.

Note: I personally would suggest not keeping your pedometer on you when doing any of your training or existing exercise – lifting, running, cycling, etc – the things you’re already doing. We’re not trying to cram in more workouts; remember, it’s Non-Exercise Activity we’re monitoring here, and I don’t want to stack more and more onto your recovery ability.

Are you in?

excessive training

Trainers: Stop Killing Your Client

There is a trend in the personal training industry right now where workouts are simply competitions to see who can tolerate the most punishment, whether it serves a purpose or not (other than bragging rights).

I was recently at a commercial gym with a friend and we decided to take a heated yoga class with incorporated cardio – we were intrigued and both have a good fitness capacity, so we figured “Why not?” About halfway into the class, the instructor had us doing some crazy plyometric something or other for 48 rounds . . . yes, 48. Even the instructor couldn’t do all of the rounds. When did it become normal, or okay, to create a workout so challenging that no one could complete it (okay, maybe not no one – I am sure there are those anomalies). It got me thinking, what does this actually accomplish? I get it though. If you cannot complete the workout as prescribed, then you must suck and therefore come back next week and the next week until you get it – makes sense considering they are trying to make money off of your misfortune.

There is yet another problem with running clients into the ground. Let’s use the example of this class again. We were doing plyometric cycling split squats (don’t bother searching YouTube for it… I’m pretty sure it was named by drawing a series of adjectives out of a hat) combined with jump squats. If I, someone who is athletic, had trouble completing these, how about someone who is overweight and still building up their fitness level? Now, we have not only the feeling of failure, but also the likelihood that they will hurt themselves by performing movements that their joints are not (and do not need to be) accustomed to. Where is the regression? Where is creating an environment that utilizes effective movements while preventing injury? Trust me – that room was heated to 95 degrees – we didn’t need to do all of the crazy stuff to break a sweat.

People are brainwashed to think “No pain, no gain” and that you have to be literally on the verge of death in order to have a “good workout”. These philosophies couldn’t be further from the truth. You CAN have an effective workout and live to tell about it. You CAN walk out of the gym and feel good about what you accomplished, and you CAN continue to progress towards realistic goals. The thing of it is . . . you CAN. Stop subjecting yourself to workouts that the instructor cannot even complete, set yourself up for success.

At All Strength Training, we design workouts to be efficient and effective. Key word – Effective: successful in producing a desired or intended result. If your intended results was to fall on your face and feel like a failure – congratulations, you did it! If your desired result is to make progress with your physique, get stronger for the gym and life, and feel awesome about training session, then your approach should be different.

Train smart. Don’t underestimate recovery. Fuel your body. Relish in your Results.

Are You the Person I’m Looking For?

This went out to all of our newsletter subscribers and clients a few days ago, and now I’m opening it up to all of our social media readers. I am writing this because I have something special to share. If you’re reading this, I think it COULD apply to you. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but I would rather let you make that decision instead of me, as I have been wrong more than once. As some of you may or may not know, I recently began competing in Physique competitions (which I have been thoroughly enjoying, by the way). But this isn’t about me. 52544-zach-trowbridge-11_final It IS about the fact that I am looking for TWO people with similar interests. I am looking to take two people to the stage within the next 12 months. Why? Because it isn’t enough for me to do it myself – if I can’t reproduce the results then it doesn’t really help me continue to grow even more as a coach. So, who am I looking for? I am looking for one client to work with one on one with me personally, as a private client, 4 days per week, for an hour at a time. This person, male or female, should be highly motivated to get into more than just good shape – they need to want something more. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re already a client at All Strength Training or not – it’s open to anybody! I am also looking for one person to work with remotely. This person probably won’t live close enough to train with me one on one, but you’ll get the next best thing. Customized nutrition, programming, and weekly Skype consult, and more. Now, the good part. I am not going into this with a particular set cost in mind. I would rather have the right people who will do what’s needed, rather than just those with the most disposable income. So I’m not putting a price tag on it yet – if you’re the person for the job, we can work that out later. 12 week transformation So what do I get out of it? 1. Promotion. Yes, I will use you to promote our services. On our website, through social media, in print, etc. Consider it a trade for offering this at well below what I would typically charge. 2. Data. You’re a beta tester for all of my nutrition, training, and supplementation protocols. So we will keep lots of records together, you and I. Workouts, pictures, measurements, consistently and regularly. How Do You Apply? Reply to this e-mail or send an e-mail to me personally at In about 500 words (a few paragraphs), describe what you want from me. How you want to look, what competition you would like to do, who you would like to look like, and tell me why I should pick you. Please, also specify if you want to be considered for one on one or remote training. Lastly, tell me what inspires you. People, places, activities, anything. I want to know what drives you to be a better person and motivates you to get out of bed each day. If you read this and think this isn’t for you, I understand. Not everyone wants or needs to go to the level I’m asking for this project. I would ask, however, that if you know someone who fits the bill, that you share this with them so that they might have the opportunity to be considered. Until Next Time, Zach Trowbridge

A Photo Finish

I recently undertook the challenge of giving myself 12 weeks to prepare for a professional photo shoot.  My motivation?  I turn 30 in September and wanted to disprove age as an excuse.  Ever since I’ve been training, I’ve always heard, “oh, wait until you get (insert number here)… it’s way harder now.”  I also wanted to show that you can make a big transformation even when life is not perfect, and still keep with a hard deadline.  In fact, I told the photographer when I scheduled the shoot, “do not let me reschedule this.  If I try to change the time, charge me twice.”

The results were pretty sound, especially for my first time going to this length to prepare for something.  I can honestly say that there is very little that I could have done differently based on the knowledge I had of my body going into prep.  I did learn a few things in the process, though, which I will point out as I walk you through the 12-week process.

Before we get started, here are the big stats:

Diet start: 4/21/13
Starting BW: 165.5lbs
Starting BF: 12.6%

Photo shoot date: 7/13/13
Ending BW: 152.2lbs
Ending BF: 4.9%

On the left, taken one day after starting prep. On the right, taken 3 days before the shoot.
On the left, taken one day after starting prep. On the right, taken 3 days before the shoot.

Training Guidelines

One thing I knew going in is that I didn’t want to write my own training program, because with a newborn baby creating sleepless nights, two other boys who didn’t want to play second fiddle to a baby, a wife who needed my help at home to keep from going insane, and a growing business with over 80 clients to watch over, I didn’t want to be mentally responsible for one more person, even if that person was me.

So I looked at who I know in the fitness industry that has a solid reputation for rapid body transformations, and settled on Ultimate Performance owner Nick Mitchell.  Nick had just put out a book through Men’s Health called The 12-Week Body Plan that details the program he actually used with somebody to prepare them for a photo shoot, so obviously this seemed like a good match.  Knowing that I wouldn’t have access to some of the equipment he used in the program, I had to take some creative license with a few movements, but as anybody with a background in training knows, as long is the program was written with some thought, it’s going to produce results as long as you put your work in outside of the gym.

The Meat (and Nuts) of the Diet

As much as I don’t typically throw this word around, I did, in fact, diet for this photo shoot.  This wasn’t a lifestyle change, this wasn’t a “eat clean 80% of the time” plan; it was a balls-to-the-wall, 100% compliance, DIET.

While I had an idea of how things would go, there was no pre-designed “12 week template” to follow – I had to monitor my progress closely, and make changes based on the outcome of each prior change.  Throughout the entire 12 weeks, nothing really stayed exactly the same for more than two weeks at a time.

A note to keep in mind as you read this: this is not intended to be something that you copy-paste and follow to the letter.  I respond to certain things differently than somebody else, and it has a lot to do with genetics, starting condition, training history, and ability to be compliant.

Ab shot

Weeks 1-2: Keep It Simple, Stupid

I started the intention to go the first several weeks on a low-carb, stripped down diet to accelerate change.  The guidelines were pretty straightforward – I was aiming for 5-7 meals per day, with half the plate being animal protein, and the other half being green vegetables.  That’s about it.  My protein portions averaged 8oz each from bison, beef, chicken, turkey, and various seafood, and vegetable servings averaged about 1.5-2 cups coming from spinach, asparagus, kale, cucumbers, and snow peas.

I also followed the following guidelines for higher-fat protein sources:

  • Red meat was consumed twice per day using leaner cuts
  • Pork (typically uncured bacon) was consumed 2-3 times per week
  • I ate a max of about a dozen cage-free eggs per week

I would usually add a handful of either nuts or pecans to my breakfast, but other than that, everything stayed the same for the first 10 days.  Some people might need to go longer depending on how much you have to lose and how long you’ve been feeding your body refined and processed carbohydrates on a regular basis.

Weeks 3-4: Carb Additions

By the time Week 3 had begun, I  had reintroduced some carbs in the form of Quadricarb, a carbohydrate powder mixed with my post-workout shake.  On days I wasn’t training, I kept things at the baseline from the first 2 weeks.

Since I was still dropping bodyfat and felt good, at the start of Week 4, I added 1 cup of gluten-free oatmeal with a packet of stevia for sweetener, and ate it right before bed.  I used water, not milk or cream, and would also usually add some cinnamon and nutmeg to give it a little better flavor.

By this point, I was also still not doing any extra conditioning, and was only training 4 days a week for about 45-50 minutes each time.


Weeks 5-6: Kicking In High Gear

Two things happened at this time: first, I began to add additional cardio to my strength training program; second, I began carb cycling to speed up fat loss.

I started using a 5-day carb cycling strategy that fell in line with my training schedule, which looked like this:

Day 1: Back & Shoulders, medium carb day

Day 2: off, low carb day

Day 3: Legs, high carb day

Day 4: off, low carb day

Day 5: Chest & Arms, medium carb day

Things would then start over with Day 6.  Here is how each type of day would look:

Low Carb Day – basically the same as the way I was eating during Weeks 1-2.  To offset the lack of carbs, I would eat red meat, eggs, or pork twice on those days.

Medium Carb Day – 50 grams of post-workout carbs from Quadricarb, and 75 grams from gluten free oatmeal or sweet potatoes before bed

High Carb Day – 75 grams of post-workout carbs from Quadricarb, and 150 grams of carbs from oatmeal or sweet potatoes, spread over 3 meals after training

On medium and high carb days, to account for the increase in caloric intake, I would keep protein sources to white meat and fish after using a lean red meat such as bison for breakfast.

Weeks 7-8

Nothing changed during Week 7 or Week 8; since it wasn’t broke, I didn’t try to fix it.

Weeks 9-10

As I was getting leaner, I started making slight reductions in protein portions, from 8oz down to about 6oz per meal.  As I was getting leaner I required less and less in terms of sheer food volume, and reducing my protein sizes gradually cut down my daily protein and fat consumption.  Veggie intake stayed high throughout.  I also cut extra carbs about halfway through Week 10 (although if I had to do it again, I probably would have left in post-workout carbs, as well as maybe another 50-60g on leg training days).

Weeks 11-12

I continued low-carbing through Week 11 up through the Tuesday of Week 12.  I also added some more HIIT training (more on that later).  On Wednesday, I started adding carbs, about 100 extra grams on Wednesday, 200 on Thursday, and a little over 300g on Friday.  Because I had been depleted for so long, and because I was using clean sources (sweet potatoes and oats) and not garbage foods, my muscles just soaked it right up and it was at this point that my abdominal skinfold was at its lowest, and actually dropped almost in half from Friday morning to Friday night, from 6.8 to 3.9mm.

The Sunday before the shoot, I also ramped up my water intake from 4-5 liters per day to 10-12 liters per day.  On Wednesday, that number dropped to 6 liters, then 3 liters Thursday, and finally 1 liter on Friday.  Since my body was used to a very high water intake, it kept flushing water out even as I was reducing my consumption, giving that dry, vascular look that is usually desired in photo shoots.

*Note: if you are just doing this program to drop fat and do not have a shoot or competition, DO NOT mess with your water intake.  It doesn’t do anything for fat loss and the results will only hold for less than 24 hours.

Cardio and Conditioning

For the first 4 weeks of the program, I did nothing but strength train 4 days per week.  I wanted to see how my body would react to the early dietary manipulations and didn’t want to skew the data with too many variables.  If I were to do it again, I would probably personally add in some HIIT after Week 2, but unless you know your body very well, I would keep it out for the first month.

At Week 5, all I did was add one High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout per week, using sprints for my intervals, either indoors on a treadmill, or outside on a track.  Here is one of my preferred HIIT treadmill workouts:

Sample HIIT Workout
5 minutes @4mph with 5 degree incline
10 rounds of 30 seconds @11mph/45 seconds @4.5mph, no incline
10 minutes @4mph with 7 degree incline
4 rounds of 60 seconds @8mph/90 seconds @4mph, no incline
5 minutes @3.5mph with 5 degree incline

I had a few different workouts I would work through, but that one was my favorite.

At Week 8, I added in 1-2 fasted morning cardio sessions to help drop additional fat.  These were typically done at 5am on an empty stomach, only having black coffee and 20 capsules of branched chain amino acids to help stimulate fat loss and prevent muscle breakdown.  Then I would just do 20-30 minutes of inclined walking at 4-4.5mph on a treadmill.  Boring.

One important note: if your sleep and recovery isn’t tip top, fasted cardio will only make you fatter and more run down.  If you need to cut anything when pressed for time or feeling run down, this is where to start.

Hanging leg raise

Big Finish

The last 2 weeks, I added more HIIT and cut out the fasted morning cardio so I was doing 3-4 30 minute HIIT sessions, either in the morning or evening depending on what my work schedule looked like for the day.

5 minutes @4mph with 5-7 degree incline
8 rounds of 20 seconds @13.5mph/10 seconds of complete rest standing on treadmill rails
21 minutes @3.5mph with 8 degree incline

All training and cardio was cut the Tuesday before the shoot, and from there all I did was rest, foam roll lots, and begin adding carbs back in.

Supplement for Success

I kept supplement use pretty moderate, but there are a few key products that I would definitely suggest if you can afford it.  If not, don’t worry about it – supplements are no replacement for hard training and consistent diet.

Fish oil – 1 gram taken with each meal, totaling 5-7 grams per day, acts as an anti-inflammatory and improves usage of bodyfat for fuel

Holy basil – 2 capsules taken with breakfast and dinner, increases morning energy and accelerates fat loss from the abdomen

BCAA capsules – 3 taken during each rest period of my training sessions, as well as prior to fasted cardio, prevents muscle breakdown and improves recovery

Carb powder – varies with post-workout shake depending on carb cycling schedule

Topical magnesium – 1 pump applied over my carotid artery a half hour before bed to knock me out and improve rest

That’s it.  Nothing crazy, and pretty affordable for a short run.

There you have it – a 12-week guide to big fat loss, and in all likelihood, several pounds of muscle gain as well.  You may have noticed that I didn’t list any cheat meals over the 12 weeks – that’s because they didn’t happen.  When you’re working against a deadline, you don’t always get the luxury of taking your time and worrying about lifestyle compatibility – certain things do get put on the back burner.  But if you work hard and stick with it, it’ll all pay off in the end.

I’d love to hear about anybody who decides to take this challenge on, please leave your thoughts and comments below!


Guest Post: The Kettlebell Challenge Workout

Zach’s note: Since I have been having a hard time keeping regular content flowing to the site, I’ve asked some of my close friends and colleagues to help out with some guest posts.  Today’s post comes from fellow trainer (and former boss) Forest Vance, an RKC-certified kettlebell instructor from Sacramento, California.  Here we go!


I have a new kettlebell/body weight challenge workout for you today … but first, I want to make sure you understand how a workout like this would fit into a long-term kettlebell programming scheme.

Do you stick to a structured and periodized kettlebell program – or do you “mix it up” and change your workouts constantly?

Are you endlessly searching out new kettlebell exercises and workouts to try, at the expense of starting and finishing a single, complete, solidly designed routine?

Bad news – you have Kettlebell ADHD.

All the variety sounds cool at first – new fun workouts, lots of different kettlebell exercises to impress your friends, etc. …

And changing your workouts over time is a good thing to keep your body from adapting.

The problem, though, is that with too much KB exercise/workout variety, it’s almost impossible to learn all the moves correctly in any reasonable amount of time – especially if you’re a kettlebell beginner.

The key is to stick with a program just long enough (typically 4-6 weeks) to see results, but not long enough to adapt and stall out your progress.

Now that’s out of the way:) … on to the challenge workout:

A cool, unique, and fun workout thrown in OCCASIONALLY and at the RIGHT TIME in an established and structured workout program is actually GREAT for accelerating results and keeping your workouts interesting.

Here’s a kettlebell/body weight challenge workout for you … just remember that this is intended as a one-off challenge you do maybe once per month or so – and NOT a regular program:

  • power jacks
  • push ups
  • reverse lunges
  • knee-to-elbow mountain climbers
  • KB swings

Do 20 reps of each exercise.  Perform the workout circuit-style, moving from one exercise to the next with as little rest as possible.  Do five rounds of the circuit for time.

Watch this video for a full breakdown of the routine:

In summary, challenge workouts are a killer way to accelerate your results and keep your workouts interesting – programmed correctly, and used at the right time.  Use the one in today’s article and video to get you started, and let us know how you do!

Good luck and train hard –

Forest Vance, MS, RKC II

Forest Vance holds a Master’s degree in Human Movement and personal training certifications through the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

He is also a Level II Russian Kettlebell Challenge Certified Instructor, Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, Certified Performance Enhancement Specialist, and Certified Fitness Nutrition Coach.

Over the last 8 years, Forest has experience as a personal trainer, group fitness/boot camp instructor, fitness manager, and health club general manager.

He currently works as the owner and head trainer at his Sacramento functional training gym.

He also maintains a network of fitness-related websites, makes regular guest appearances on many others, has been featured in national newspaper, radio, television, and other media.

He is the creator and author of numerous books, DVD’s, and digitally delivered workout programs and systems.

To learn more and to get a free copy of his Beginner’s Guide to Kettlebell Training, check out his website at

Program Review: Giant Sets Training

I’ve seen giant sets training (3 or more exercises for the same bodypart without resting) show up in various magazines and articles on bodybuilding over the years, but never gave it much of a try. I’d occasionally with a few exercises to cut down on training time, but always for little exercises (shoulder raises, tricep extensions, etc.) and never really came into the workout planning on doing it.

However, over the last couple of years I’ve been seeing a lot about using very extreme giant sets for fat loss (6-10 exercises per muscle) in writing from guys like Charles Poliquin, Milos Sarcev, and Nick Mitchell.

Milos Sarcev prepping a client for competition.

I gave it a try for a 5-day cycle, during a short break from training twice a day. My training setup currently looks like this:

Day 1: Chest/Back
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: off
Day 4: Arms
Day 5: off
Day 6: repeat Day 1

When training twice a day, I do that 5 day cycle twice and then do 5 days of only training once a day, during which time I usually try out whatever ridiculous training ideas come into my head. Giant sets was one of them. Here is the entire 5-day cycle as it went:

Day 1: Chest/Back
A1. Ring Dip (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A2. Incline Barbell Press (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A3. 60-degree Incline DB Press (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A4. 30-degree Incline DB Press (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A5. Flat Neutral Grip DB Press (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A6. Flat DB Flye (3010, 2min rest) – x10

Rest is 10 seconds between exercises, then 2 minutes at the end, then repeat for 3 rounds total.

B1. Bentover Barbell Row (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B2. DB Pullover (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B3. Wide-Grip Pullup (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B4. Inverted Ring Row (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B5. Ring Face Pull (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B6. Elbows-Out Ring Row (3010, 2min rest) – x10

Repeat for 3 rounds. I really thought this was bad, but nothing compares to the leg day.

Day 2: Legs
A1. Heel-Elevated Front Squat (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A2. Close-Stance Barbell Squat (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A3. Poliquin Step-Up (3010, 10sec rest) – x10 each leg
A4. Walking DB Lunge (2010, 10sec rest) – x10 each leg
A5. Safety Bar Close-Stance Squat (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A6. Sumo-Stance Barbell Squat (3010, 2min rest) – x10

3 rounds. I wish I could say that I got all 10 reps on every exercise, every time, but that would be a lie. The first round took 7 minutes and 12 seconds, the third round took 10 minutes and 36 seconds. I’m glad I made Sergio do this workout with me, if I hadn’t, I know I would have started cutting corners on hitting all of the reps.

B1. Glute/Ham Raise (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B2. Romanian Deadlift (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B3. Hyperextension (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B4. 1-leg Kettlebell Deadlift (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B5. Reverse Hyperextension (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B6. Barbell Glute Bridge (3010, 2min rest) – x10

We had lofty aspirations of doing 3 rounds of the hamstring training, but that didn’t quite work out, as our entire legs were so cramped after round 2 that standing was nearly impossible.

Day 3: off (thank God)

Day 4: Arms
A1. Close-Grip Chinup (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A2. Fat Grip Barbell Scott Curl (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A3. Barbell Curl (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A4. 60-degree Incline Hammer Curl (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A5. 30-degree Incline Curl (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
A6. Reverse Barbell Curl (3010, 2min rest) – x10

Unbelievable how light I had to go on the last few dumbbell curls. I’ll spare you the details (after all, I have a reputation to uphold…)

B1. Fat Grip Close-Grip Bench Press (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B2. DB California Press (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B3. 30-degree Lying DB Extension (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B4. Standing Overhead DB Extension (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B5. Band Pushdown (3010, 10sec rest) – x10
B6. Ring Triceps Extension (3010, 2min rest) – x10

The last set of triceps work burned more than anything I can think of. I had to drop the weight down 3 different times in the same set on the last set of standing extensions just to get 10 reps, and it was definitely ugly.


Would I use this on a regular basis? Probably not. If you did, you would need to be very careful with exercise selection to make sure that you’re hammering away at the muscles without overtaxing the central nervous system. And even then, I would use it maybe 3-4 cycles though before switching out, using it at the peak end of a fat loss or hypertrophy cycle. I also feel like the hypertrophy programming would be easier as reps would be slightly lower (6-8 per exercise instead of 10-15) and it wouldn’t be done while dieting (I think the extent of my carb intake all 5 days was 40-60g of post-workout carbs). But if you’re looking for something to break you out of a rut, give it a try, if only for a short while.

Program Review: German Body Comp for Athletes

There are a few things that I know to be true about most athletes:

  • They tend to require lots of short, explosive movements
  • They perform better with less fat on their bodies

While there are definitely exceptions to the above rules (for example, marathoners and sumo wrestlers), these are plenty that fit the rule – martial artists, gymnasts, football players (particularly skill positions), track and field athletes, the list goes on and on.  So when choosing training programs for athletes, it’s important to consider what impact it has on one or both of those characteristics.

One program that we have found to be extremely effective is Charles Poliquin’s German Body Comp for Athletes program.  It’s a progression on the original German Body Comp (or GBC) program, which is a fat-loss program designed for the general population with emphasis on full-body training session that use big movements, high reps and short rest periods.  However, the Athletes version of the program makes some modifications to help balance maintaining or increasing athleticism with improving body composition.

For example, each day of the 4-day split in the program begins with some variation of an Olympic lift.  Because of their technical difficulty, Olympic lifts are usually best left out of programs for your average Joe or Jane, but are incorporated here because of their ability to generate power without adding excessive amounts of body mass (also known as relative strength).  In general, the repetitions are kept lower than usual to emphasize development of fast-twitch muscle fibers that are important to excel in most sports.

The important thing to note with this program is that there is room to vary things a bit – if you know what you’re doing, it can be used more as a template than as a “do as written or it won’t work” setup, and it’s quite easy to swap out variations on Olympic lifts, squats, pullups and presses that comprise the core of the program.  Charles’ personal recommendation is to stay on it no longer than 6 weeks, and I’ve found that between 4 and 6 weeks is best, depending on recovery abilities.

For the original article direct from Charles himself, click here.


My First Boot Camp of 2012

I have made it a habit to do our 14-day low carb boot camp about once every 6 months, and just finished my first one of the new year. I figured that 1) I had been coasting a bit for the last 6 weeks or so and needed a jump start, and 2) most of the participants in our 2012 Ultimate Challenge are beginning the competition with it, so I should refresh myself on what to expect. Here’s a quick layout of all of the “extras” (for the basics of the boot camp itself, click here):


For the most part, I stayed with the basics – multivitamin, zinc, magnesium, high doses of fish oil, and HCL.  I also added Insulinomics and Glucose Disposal to address insulin resistance (I swapped out Glucose Disposal for Fenuplex after the first week because I ran out).  I also followed up each training session with a post-workout shake with 40g New Zealand whey, 2tbsp glutamine, 1tbsp glycine powder, and 1-2tbsp Primal Greens (a powdered greens superfood) to keep post-workout cortisol at a minimum.  I also added a couple of capsules of magnesium to my post-workout shake on days when I had to train later in the day.


None.  I did absolutely no cardio whatsoever for the entire 14 days.  If you are going to do cardio, keep it high-intensity intervals and 20-30 minutes max.  I have found that cardio raises cortisol more than it helps with fat loss so I do better with just staying low-carb instead.


We recommend either full-body training sessions or a combination of upper- and lower-body exercises (i.e. quads and back in one workout, hamstrings and chest/shoulders in another), 3-4 times a week.  I stayed with what has worked for me in the past, German Body Comp for Athletes.  I made a few adjustments based on equipment availability but other than that stayed true to the program as written.  It was a bitch.

Tips for Success

I started the boot camp at 12.5% bodyfat, was down to 10.3% after the first week, and finished at just over 9%.  I added about 3.5lbs of lean mass (maybe muscle, maybe fluid, but not fat) and lost about 5lbs of fat.  There are a few things that will make or break your success on this thing:

  1. Keep protein intake high.  Eat animal protein every time you eat, and eat as often as possible.  My protein intake averaged just under 400g per day at a bodyweight of 155-160lbs.
  2. Eat vegetables at every meal.  On top of keeping you full, veggies have a high thermic effect – meaning they take more calories to digest than there are in the food to begin with, due to the high fiber content.  Your body has to go to bodyfat to make up the difference.
  3. Prep your meals in advance.  Since eggs aren’t allowed on the boot camp, I used variations on burger patties for my breakfast and snacks to get me through.  Every few nights we would prep 1-2lbs of ground turkey, beef, chicken, or sirloin into 3-4oz patties and I would just grab two of them with some nuts or cucumbers for a quick meal.  Without the planning I would either have not eaten or have had to turn to crap just to get something in me.

One interesting note – last night I had a cheat meal after finishing the 14th day, and had pizza, breadsticks and ice cream with my boys.  About two slices into the pizza, I got a splitting headache that lasted the rest of the night.  Expect your body to reject unhealthy food after it’s over.

Altitude Training at Sea Level

Those of you who have been in the garage at AST in the last few weeks may have seen me pushing the Prowler while wearing a mask that, upon first glance, might look more appropriate on the set of Pulp Fiction than in the gym.  Lifestyle preferences aside, there is actually a significant cardiovascular benefit to using such a mask, called an altitude training mask.  In mixed martial arts and other combat sports, athletes have regularly used high altitude training to take their performance to the next level.

Going into the mountains and training at higher elevations has been a favorite training tool for years, not only for the seclusion and ability to focus on an upcoming event, but from the physical changes made in the body and the blood from training in the thin air of the mountains.  Then, when the athlete returns to their regular elevation they find that they are stronger and faster for longer.  One explanation is that the lack of oxygen forces the body to produce more red blood cells, which are the body’s primary way of delivering oxygen to muscle and other tissues.

So how does this “freak” mask help bring these gains without having to move to the Alps?  The mask helps by creating pulmonary resistance, in other words limiting the flow of oxygen through the mask and forcing the body to increase RBC production to adapt.

In the short time that I have used the mask I have noticed that when in training (sparring, conditioning, weight training, etc.), I’m subconsciously slowing down my breath and I have been able to last a lot longer, with more productive training sessions.  This is important to me because as an MMA fighter, my sport is all about maintaining speed and power longer than the other guy.

High altitude training has also been shown to help those with asthma, since asthma tends to force hyperventilation, and using the training mask requires slowing down breathing and increasing use of the diaphragm muscles.  There is benefit for all types of endurance sports, including running, cycling, triathlon competition and others.  So strap on your “gas mask” and get to work!