Monday, August 27, 2007

No Surrender

Last Saturday morning I had breakfast at Pier Village in Long Branch, NJ. When I left the restaurant, one individual amongst the dozens on the sidewalk caught my eye from over 100 feet away. From what I could tell he looked to be in his late 50's yet was dressed like someone in their 20's. Multiple earrings, a chain wallet, camo shorts, a long sleeve t with a short sleeve t shirt over it and sunglasses and a hat pulled low. His t-shirt even fit properly, which is the signal of a cool dude. When you are young and cool you wear fairly short (3-4 inches below the belt) t-shirts and long shorts. When you are old and/or just not cool, you strangely start increase the length of your t-shirts (5-8 inches below the belt) and decrease the length of your shorts (above the knee). This is something that I never understood and have been trying recently to pinpoint exactly when this happened. Nowadays when I hang out with my dad and his friends they are all dressed like me and my friends were when we were going to a Naughty By Nature concert back in '93. Except with short shorts and loafers. But the XXXL shirts are in full effect. Think Sly Stallone in that racing movie about 5-8 years back. When I get sucked into watching golf with him, I notice that all the 40-50 year old golfers are also rocking this look. I was happy to see Tiger Woods recently wearing a shirt that fit him. Hopefully he can bring this trend to an end.

But I digress...

As this mysterious figure got closer, I thought "who the hell is this dude?". When he first caught my eye he was walking out of Gold's Gym and it was apparent that he had just worked out. For some reason I couldn't look away because I just wanted to see what this guy looked like up close. I also was hoping that I would be cool enough to still dress like that at his age.

When he got within two feet of me I still couldn't make out his face that clearly. He was about 5'9" at best and 165lbs. When he nearly brushed shoulders with me I realized it was Bruce. Now if you're from Jersey you don't need the last name; if you are not, it was Bruce Springsteen (If you're from the NY/NJ area you also know that there is only one LT and he wore number 56 not number 21). Since Born In The USA was the first tape I ever owned (as I once mentioned HERE)
and I have been a huge fan for over 20 years, I was star struck for one of the rare times in my life. We both walked into the same coffee shop and nearly plowed into each other en route to the counter. Nobody recognized him and I didn't want to draw attention so I quietly patted him on the back and thanked him for all the years of great music. He shook my hand and thanked me with the trademark gravely voice and was on his way.

Shortly afterward, I recalled how my friends dad used to tell me about stories of training in the same gym as Bruce down the shore all through the 80's when he lived in the area. Apparently he was in the gym four days per week, religiously, lifting and doing cardio. It was great to see that all these years later, The Boss is still training as hard as ever.

Unfortunately I still hear excuses from countless people that they are too old or too banged up. You're not. You're never too old to start training and no matter how old you get you should never stop.

I walked into Golds afterward to check it out since I intended to train before going to the beach. It was a little to pretty for my liking and I instead chose Jakes Gym down the street but while I was there I asked the guy at the front desk how often Bruce comes in. He told me he was there at least 4-5 days per week lifting, doing cardio (since he is "Born to Run"), stretching or a combination of all of the above.

If The Boss can do it at 57 years old, you can too. "No retreat, baby, no surrender..."

Monday, August 20, 2007

The "Athletic Look"

One of my favorite scams in the fitness industry is the idea that using tools such as kettlebells, Swiss balls, medicine balls or any other non traditional type equipment will help you build an "athletic looking physique." It's a cute little line and will definitely hook some people in. It's great marketing, actually. But here's the problem; your muscles have an origin and insertion and the way they look or will look when you make the bigger is predetermined at birth. It is impossible to shape or change a muscle. It's genetics, plain and simple. This lie is just about as bad as the old 80's idea that you can actually peak your biceps or other such nonsense. If one twin used kettlebells and the other used Hammer Strength machines for 16 weeks and they each gained ten pounds of muscle and lost ten pounds of fat, who do you think would have the more athletic looking physique? The answer is obvious to anyone who knows the first thing about anatomy. NEITHER! They would both look exactly the same. There are only two things you can do to enhance the way you look; make your muscles bigger and reduce your bodyfat. THAT'S IT! You can not shape them and make yourself look more athletic.

It's just like the lie that the yoga and pilates people tell you; they will help you build "long, lean muscles." They somehow have done what scientists could not; come up with a way to actually lengthen muscles. So if I start pilates today at six feet tall, I should be at least 6'4" by this time next year according to that theory. It's really an embarrassment for these lies to be told.

If I had to define an "athletic look" I would say that for most males it's around 200 pounds with single digit bodyfat. Huge pecs signify bodybuilder in an instant and are a terrible look. Huge arms also scream bodybuilder and make you look like an unathletic, narcissistic douche. A lean but muscular midsection, a well developed back (thickness is more important than width if you want to look athletic and avoid the bodybuilder stereotype), proportioned but not overly developed pecs and arms and most importantly, a well developed set of traps make up the ideal athletic look. This can be achieved with barbells and dumbbells, just like it has forever.

It's ridiculous to think that if you train with kettlebells you will somehow end up looking like an NFL wide receiver but if you train with barbells you will somehow end up looking like the guy pictured above. Kettlebells are just a tool, nothing more, nothing less. And to be honest, there are really only about a handful of exercises that you can do with kettlebells that you can't with dumbbells.

If you want an athletic looking physique you need to build muscle and lose bodyfat. Period. The end. To find out the most effective way to do this as quickly as possible click HERE now.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Creating the Optimal Training Environment

A colleague of mine recently emailed me to ask about how I train football players in the summer. Below is a small portion of our exchange...

I know you will disagree with a few of the exercises used but as I said I am a realist and guys ALWAYS want to do curls so I give them a few sets a week. It makes them happy. I eliminated it for a while and guys were pissed and always asked when we could do arms. I believe in making everyone happy. Guys like to get a good pump too.

I definitely agree with you on making training as safe as possible. Alwyn and I have discussed this endlessly. The main reason I have been successful and have had every guy from 4 surrounding towns in my facility, while even having a multi million dollar TEST facility right down the street is not only because of the results I produce but because of the atmosphere in my gym. Everybody loves coming there because it's so completely different than everywhere else they ever went. The music, the attitude, the camaraderie, competition, etc.

But there's a fine line between creating the perfect competitive, hardcore training environment and doing what is safest and most productive. I don't necessarily have a problem with you using front squats over back squats per se, it's just that most of my guys love to squat and the majority of them get tested on squats with their high school, college or pro teams. For that reason alone, you have to back squat. Also, most people hate doing front squats so I don't torture them. I definitely limit the use of extremely heavy deads to only the most competent guys who can do them with perfect form.

Another example is going to failure or just training too hard in general. Here's the thing with going to failure that most people haven’t figured out yet. Most guys are either on one side or the other of that fence.

If you are just training for hypertrophy/bodybuilding you can go to failure.
Not death set/nervous breakdown failure but you can go til you can’t do another rep. In fact, it may be more productive to go to failure in this case. Even then, nothing is cut and dry and there are certain exceptions but that is generally the rule.

If you are training strictly for performance and strength, you cant go to failure all the time. If you do so on week one, I can guarantee you will be fucked by week three and probably by week two.

However, and here is how this ties into training atmosphere, if no guys ever worked their asses off and pushed it to the limits in the gym I'm not sure that creates the kind of environment that competitive athletes can't wait to get to every day. If you just did jumps and Oly lifts and split squats and never busted your fucking ass (or got a biceps pump once in awhile) I honestly don't think guys would like it as much.

There is also the mental aspect to it. When guys show up at camp in August they are going to get shit on. Coaches are going to put them through hell. I think they need to be mentally ready for that and feel like they outworked everyone on that field. They need that mental edge and chip on their shoulder to be able to say “fuck you, I busted my ass this summer and outworked all you motherfuckers.”

BUT... going to failure and beyond all the time probably slows down your progress. So where do you draw the line? This is what I always try to play with and am always getting closer to what is optimal.

I know for a fact that one of the best ways of training may be to go all out for three weeks and take the fourth week completely off. You won’t lose a thing. But at the end of the year you may actually make more progress and feel better. The body actually needs way less training than most of us realize. You could probably take half the year off and still make great progress.

If you need athletes to go all out in the weight room to prepare them for what they will face on the field maybe that is the best option right there- 3 wks on, 1 wk completely off.

But how do you fit that into a business model? You would have to have them feel like they were doing something that week or they would hate it. Maybe just stretch, foam roller and whatever else you could fill up 3 hours with?

I don’t have all the answers; just lots of thoughts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who Comes Up With This Stuff?

I was asked recently about some of the biggest misconceptions and excuses that exist when it comes to building muscle. Read on for my answers...

Question: There is a lot of conflicting training advice out there online, in books, on TV and especially in magazines. What do you think the top myths or misconceptions regarding weight training are?

Answer: That you need a high volume of training. This is a myth that has been passed down from one generation to the next and people continue to blindly follow this protocol without thinking rationally. There is no hard evidence anywhere that you need to use high volume training to get bigger and stronger. Sure lots of guys with great genetics and/or a great pharmacist make progress on high volume training but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to train.

That you need to hit muscles from a multitude of angles for full development.

That you need a full dynamic warm up before weight training. You don’t. Before sprinting, yes; before lifting, no.

That bodypart splits are the most effective way to train.

Another misconception is that you need a boatload of supplements to make great progress. The bottom line truth is that most supplements suck and do nothing but drain your wallet.

Another sad misconception is that you can’t make great progress without steroids. This is a self defeatist attitude and is simply not true.

Question: Other comments that I have heard coaches say are that the only way to put on any muscle size, is really going to be based on genetics. So they are saying for example that skinny kids can’t and will never be able to put on size.

Answer: That’s the biggest copout under the sun and an excuse that really makes me sick. Genetics are responsible for how far you may eventually go but the fact of the matter is most people will never truly reach their genetic potential. If you use this excuse it shows the world that you have no heart whatsoever and are destined for failure. Using the hard-gainer excuse as a crutch will guarantee you sub par results in your training from now til eternity.

I have some of the worst muscle building genetics imaginable but I never let that hold me back. I have also trained some genetic misfits who made incredible progress and eventually were getting asked what steroids they were on. This is because they had the balls to train like they needed to and had the dedication to eat and rest as much as was needed. Most people simply don’t have what it takes; so the only genetic capacity they may be missing is mental toughness.

For a coach or trainer to say or write that is even worse than just the average trainee or athlete saying that. Making a comment like that shows that you have no heart and no balls, and in that case you should never, EVER be coaching or training ANYONE!

Question: It has been said as you get older it get harder and harder to put on size and strength. Some even say that it can’t be done. What do you say to older athletes or even coaches that say this?

Answer: This is just like the hard-gainer excuse; it’s nonsense. One of my good friends is named Mark Crook (his brother Paul played guitar in Anthrax for seven years and is now lead guitarist for Meatloaf) and we first met right after his 40th birthday when he came to me to help him get bigger and stronger. He took his bench from 155 to 275 in one year and gained over 20lbs of muscle. Mark’s enthusiasm led to a friend of his coming in to my gym a year later and he experienced similar gains. I have had several guys in their 40’s and 50’s experience tremendous gains in size and strength over the years.

It may not happen as fast and as easily as it does for a 20 year old but it can be done. You just have to take into account that your recovery ability may be a bit lower and as such you need to keep your volume lower and be very smart with your training.

Also, you have to remember that most guys don’t even hit their strength peak til sometime around 30 or so. Most of the biggest and strongest guys I know are all in their mid to late 30’s. So the day you hit 40, this doesn’t just do a complete 180 and you shouldn’t be on your training deathbed at 50. Just keep training hard and if you believe you will get stronger then you will.

For real muscle building info without the nonsense, go HERE now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Weekend Observations

- For the second weekend in a row I trained in a public gym. As far as public gym experiences go it actually wasn't too bad. I was training with my brother and my good friend Mark Crook, both of whom I haven't trained with in over a year so the motivation and energy was high. We actually had a great workout and I was able to block out the tv's surrounding and whatever was playing on the stereo.

- It's nice when public gyms keep the music low. This allows you to wear your headphones without having to turn it up so loud that you blow out your eardrums and have a headache for the next five hours after training. A gym I train clients at in New York isn't so kind and on the rare occasion that I trained there I screwed up my hearing for the entire day trying to drown out whatever hideous excuse for music they had blaring through the speakers.

- As far as machines go, the Hammer Strength row and pulldown pieces are pretty damn good. I have only used these a few times in my life and forgot how much I enjoyed using them. If you have them in your gym, I recommend giving them a try on occasion. They will never replace free weights but are a nice change of pace and give you a pretty sick pump...if you're into that kind of thing.

- I've said it before and I'll say it again; the most important factor is not what program you use, what supplements you use, how you train, when you train, what you train, BUT... WHO YOU TRAIN WITH. You can do HIT, Westside, bodypart splits, whatever. It doesn't matter if you are training in the wrong environment with the wrong people. You can use the best program in the world but if you don't have a good training partner or partners, your results will never be as good as they could be. You could also do the worst program in the world with a great training partner and you will get results. The environment and atmosphere is important but let's face it, hardcore gyms are few and far between these days. As long as you can find a good training partner or two you can get the job done at the freakin Ritz. I had a great workout in Chicago last weekend with my friends and colleagues John Alvino, Keith Scott and Craig Ballantyne in a way-too-pretty gym. It didn't matter though because we all competed and made it a great workout.

- If you train hard and with good training partners, you can't do high volume training. There is no need for it and you physically won't be capable of it.

- People consume way too much artificial crap. Living on butter sprays and nutra sweet flavored drinks isn't exactly healthy.

- Rock Star and vodka is way better than Red Bull and vodka. I made this discovery in Chicago last weekend and reinforced that opinion this weekend.

- For some reason the instructions "the wetter the better" or "as sloppy as possible" don't seem to always get through. I have decided to start saying "I want you and the whole scene down there to look like a sliming from Ghostbusters just took place." Hopefully that will get the message across.

- For years I wrestled with the fact that girls in their early 20's are so irresistibly hot yet usually don't really have much to say. It's part of the torture of my existence. And then this weekend I had an epiphany while tailgating and being surrounded by them for four hours. For the first time I finally realized that... girls in their early 20's are so irresistibly hot yet usually don't really have much to say. Life is good...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fat Loss Tips from Craig Ballantyne

I'm not a "low-carb guy" by any means, but I have found something that works wonders for fat loss. And it does involve cutting back on whole-grains.

Back in December, I substituted more fruits and vegetables for any whole-grains in my diet, and I was as lean as I've been in years with this approach. So if you're trying to lose fat and look better than ever this summer, try this approach.

Here are some easy changes to make.

a) Instead of having toast for breakfast, have an apple.

b) Usually have a side of rice at lunch? Have 1 cup of broccoli.

c) Typically have a bowl of cereal at night? Have an orange and an ounce of pecans (or walnuts or almonds), instead.

Think I'm out to lunch?

Check this study ...

(For science nerds like me, here's the reference: Amer. J. Clin.
Nutr. 85: 1465-1477, 2007.)

Woman on a low-fat diet that ate more fruits and vegetables lost
more fat than another group of woman on only the low-fat diet.

After 1-year, the low-fat, fruits and vegetables group (LF-FV) lost more weight than another group of woman on the low-fat (LF) diet only.


The LF-FV group reported being less hungry, thanks to being able to eat more food than the LF group.

So you'll eat fewer calories if you are filling up on fruits and
vegetables, while keeping un-necessary fat out of the diet.

And isn't the summer a great time to implement this program? With watermelon, berries, apples, and cherries all in great abundance, you can satisfy your sweet tooth naturally, while burning fat with the Turbulence Training fat loss workouts at home.


Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training

About the Author

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nutrition Rules

Here are a few easy to follow nutrition rules that will help you build a bigger, leaner physique:

• Eat every 2-3 hours. This keeps you in an anabolic state and keeps your metabolism running along so that you don’t get fat.

• Build your meals around a base of lean protein and shoot for one gram per pound of bodyweight per day. The only time you would need more than this is when you are dieting and your carbs are extremely low.

• Eat vegetables at every meal except breakfast. Not only are they incredibly healthy and provide tons of nutrients and fiber but they slow down the absorption of your meals leading to less bodyfat accumulation.

• Eat organic whenever possible. There is so much crap in the food we eat today that it is really a smart decision to eat organic as often as you can.

• Avoid sugars, artificial sweeteners and saturated fats as much as possible. Some saturated fat in meats is ok, but really try to cut out the sugar and artificial sweeteners.

• Eat carbs at breakfast and around your workout. Cut out carbs at night.

• Drink at least a half gallon of water per day. A gallon is usually better, especially in the summer.

• Watch your sodium intake. And when I say that I mean it in the opposite way that most people and doctors would think I mean it. I mean to be sure your sodium intake is adequate. This is especially true for athletes who play in the summer time. Without adequate sodium levels your performance can suffer. Adequate sodium levels also help to maintain strength while dieting.

For more in depth nutritional info check out


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Watch the Teeth

You have to listen to your body. Sometimes you get the gym, start warming up and realize you just don't have it in you that day. You have two options when this happens. You can listen to your body and just go home and put your workout off until tomorrow or you can try to get psyched up and plow through your workout. If you love training it's a tough decision sometimes.

It's kinda like deciding whether or not to utter those three words...

"Watch the teeth."

If you say nothing, chances are that it could get better... or it could get worse. Or maybe it just remains the same and you realize how lucky you are to be in that position in the first place so you just battle through the painful pleasure. But what if you say those three words? One of two things will happen; it will either get way better or it will immediately be over because no one likes to be told they are doing a bad job. This is a very, very, very difficult decision to make and one that I have wrestled with many times in my life. It is huge reward vs. huge risk.

Since I don't believe in doing anything half assed and would rather not do it at all then do it wrong, I always opt to utter those three risky words. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't. But I think it's a risk you have to take.

Just like when you are feeling shitty and know that your workout is going to suck that day. Simply pack up and leave. It's just not worth having teeth marks, I mean a crappy workout that really does nothing but impede your progress. It doesn't make you tougher to fight through so don't bother doing it.

I should note that this should only happen on a very rare occasion (like once a month) where you feel so bad that you can't train effectively and make progress. Don't use this as an excuse to skip every other workout; just remember that everyone has a bad day on occasion and you have to listen to your body. Especially when there is biting involved...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

CNS Fatigue- Real or Just Another Excuse For The Weak?

I have been getting a lot of questions about CNS fatigue lately so I thought I would take this time to address the issue once and for all.

The CNS controls everything; if it’s fried your performance is going to suck. So you have to be careful about CNS intensive methods and allowing for proper recovery of the CNS. CNS intensive training methods are the max effort method in which you are lifting extremely heavy weights for a max or near max attempt and the dynamic effort method in which you are lifting light weights very fast. Sprinting and all types of plyos are also CNS intensive activities.

Ideally, you never want to perform two CNS intensive workouts on back to back days. The nervous system needs adequate recovery and although you may not be sore the next day after a CNS intensive workout, that doesn’t mean that you are ready to train.

So if you do a 1 rep max squat on Monday you need to do something like repetition upper body work and/or some light running drills or cardio or whatever on Tuesday. What you don’t want to do is sprint, jump or lift heavy again. You should ideally separate CNS intensive days by 48 hours. Therefore if you have to incorporate sprints into the weekly schedule it is usually best to do them as a double session on your max effort days. So on Monday morning you would run your sprints and then on Monday night you would do your max effort squats. If you are really pressed for time you could do a short sprint workout outside and then walk into the gym for your max squats.

If you are simply training for bodybuilding this is not as important but if you are training for strength/performance this rule needs to be taken under strict consideration.

While CNS recovery is important to consider I should also point out that it has gotten to be a very hot topic recently and I think some people may be taking it too far. Actually, I know they are taking it too far. It’s good to constantly make advances and stay up to date on the latest scientific discoveries and apply them to our training but we never want to get too caught up in this either. If your schedule doesn’t work out perfectly with the structure of CNS intensive days and non CNS intensive days, don’t freak out about it. When we were growing up we didn’t know anything about this and we were all ok. I used to jump, trying to touch the rim at least fifty times per day in high school. And when I finally got there, I continued to jump fifty times per day trying to dunk for the next few years. That was high intensity plyos being done 365 days per year and you know what happened? My vertical went up.

Walter Payton was probably the greatest running back of all time and he famously did hill sprints every single day of every off season. Would he have been better if he skipped a day between? Who knows? But the point I am trying to make is that you have to always be aware of and take into consideration the science, but never be afraid of hard work and breaking the rules when you have to; we don’t live in a perfect world. The guy who works harder than anyone else will always have an advantage over the science geek who worries about and plans his training to the T. It’s like Rocky versus Ivan Drago…

Years ago nobody ever discussed or heard of CNS fatigue or adrenal fatigue and now everybody and their mother is worried about it and is p*ssy footing around like a bunch of school girls. Get over it. If you drink too much coffee and don’t always get ten hours of sleep and get stressed out on occasion and train harder than everyone you know, it aint gonna kill ya. You’ll be fine. I don’t know who is writing this stuff but I keep getting questions about it and now I feel bad that I ever mentioned it in the first place. It just gives the weak another excuse to remain weak.

Yes, CNS and adrenal fatigue are real issues and you should be concerned about avoiding both of them by trying to adhere to the rules I listed above. But the reality is most people just need to learn how to train harder and smarter and stop making excuses.

Besides, rules are made to be broken. Right?



Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Muscle Gaining Secrets- An Unbiased Review

I received this email today and wanted to share it with everyone. When I write I always try to abide by what the sign says; no sucking allowed. Thankfully it seems that I somehow managed to abide by that rule according to all the great feedback we have been getting recently. Thanks to everyone who has emailed and please keep them coming.

“I have read Jason's new e-book and I must say that every hardcore trainee, beginner through advanced, and trainers should do the same. It can save the beginner or intermediate trainee years of frustration and even may give the advanced trainee and fitness professional some new ideas or insights in training. In regards to training, Jason goes through it all, from how to structure your training split depending on your training age and fitness and athletic goals, to selecting repetitions and sets, to manipulating volume, frequency, and intensity, and even to weekly, monthly, and yearly planning. One of the great things about this book is that all of the information you need is given to you so that you can design your OWN programs for the rest of your life. Every accomplished lifter and athlete knows this is the path to success: knowing how to train yourself, knowing what to do at the right time.

Most of you will also enjoy the fact that Jason does not only use academic references from the field of exercise physiology, but also uses references from the "real world", athletes and lifers who have succeeded in their respective fields. We live in a world of information overload and too many people, in my opinion, are busy overloading on scientific information rather than taking some of this information and combining it with information what they know works in the real world and getting down to business. In his writings, Jason does just that.

With this book, you also get the bonuses mentioned. And let me tell you, these alone should be worth a fair price. You will get an interview with one truly experienced, strong powerlifter, Jim Wendler. Having met Jim and hearing him lecture and instruct for two days at a live seminar and workshop two years ago, I can assure you that this man knows what he is doing and talking about. They say one should never go to an athlete with great genetics for advice. Well, here is a man who had average to good genetics, intelligence, and a lion's heart and made himself into an elite powerlifter and Division 1 college athlete. Listen to what he has to say!

And then there are the nutrition e-book bonuses that are loaded with different recipes for protein/meal replacement shakes and different menu plans for your body composition goals (maintenance/lifestyle, gaining, losing).

Having bought several of Jason's products, receiving a phone consultation from him, and casually conversing with him from time to time, I can say he is a truly generous sincere, knowledgeable person who loves spreading his wealth of information with others. So put down that newsstand bodybuilding magazine filled with ghost written stories of juiced to the gills lifters doing a 100 sets per bodypart and consuming 10,000 kcal per day. Pick up a copy of this book and start learning how to "really" train and eat for the fitness goals you always wanted to achieve!”
Bradley, Queens, NY