Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Hard Way

Before we get to training I have to mention the fact that I saw The White Stripes play at the worlds most famous arena, Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. I knew this going into the show but after seeing him rip the guitar for two hours straight with hardly a five minute break, I can honestly say that Jack White is one of the most talented men in music today. If you get the chance to see them in your area I highly recommend it. Seeing just two people on stage making all that noise is truly a sight to see. Amazing...

If you are like me you have made plenty of mistakes in life and have had to learn the hard way. Training has been do different. My good buddy Craig Ballantyne asked me aboot (Canadian for about) this recently. Check it out...

CB: Jason, you’ve been studying training for many years now. What valuable lessons have you learned the hard way?

JF: Wow, great question Craig. I've learned more lessons the hard way than I care to remember. I don't even know where to begin but here are a few off the top of my head:

Low carb diets suck for gaining muscle - No matter what anyone may tell you, you need carbs to grow, there is no way around it. I took some bad advice years ago and tried desperately to gain size on a no carb diet and I got nowhere. I had even tried this approach with clients and they experienced similar results. As soon as I brought the carbs back, I started growing again as did all of my clients. Sure there are different levels of insulin sensitivity and some people tolerate carbs better than others but the bottom line is you need some carbs to grow.

This may only be 100 grams per day on non training days and 250 grams on training days or it may be 300 grams on off days and 600 grams on training days. That is highly individual and is something you need to experiment with to find out what works best for you. I will say this though, the fatter you are the less carbs you can tolerate. If you are above 15% bodyfat you need to be very careful with carb consumption and need to limit the times you eat carbs to post workout and breakfast.

Less is more - This is something else that I learned the hard way. In my late teens and early twenties I overtrained myself into the ground on a regular basis. When in doubt, always do less. 10-16 sets, three to four days per week is plenty for most people to get great results. If you can’t get results with this amount of training you are either training like a complete pansy or just not eating or sleeping enough. But more training is not the answer.

You need some kind of energy system work ("cardio") to get extremely lean - As my good friend Alwyn Cosgrove has pointed out on more than one occasion; there is often an overreaction to concepts or ideas in our industry. Several years back the anti cardio movement came to the forefront and told us all that no one needed any energy system work whatsoever to get lean. Diet and proper weight training would be enough to get the job done. Being some one who hates the word cardio and loves lifting heavy, this was all I needed to hear. I jumped on the bandwagon like so many others but later realized that it was simply impossible to get really ripped without any engergy system work whatsoever.

Cardio also has a host of health benefits which should never be avoided by anyone concerned with living past 40. On top of that doing some cardio lets you eat more while still maintaining a healthy bodyfat percentage.

You have to listen to your body - Sometimes when you are scheduled for a heavy squat day and you walk in feeling like you just got hit by a bus and then had your girlfriend dump you while you were peeling yourself off the pavement, you have to back off. Either do something else that day, go lighter or go home. Pushing yourself is a necessity to achieve optimal results but sometimes you have to know when to back off. This is not an excuse to train like a p u s s y; I’m just saying that once in a while (and this should not happen very often) you need to listen when your body tells you to back off. This is something else that I learned the hard way and have some injuries to show for it.

To avoid making these or a host of any other mistakes in your quest for more size and strength, check out