Strength Does Not Equal Size

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Hey ladies and gentle men!  Welcome to the new 180DegreeHealth!

My brain is about to explode if I don’t get my thoughts out immediately! It’s been 11 long days since I’ve done a blog post! Gasp! I’m having withdrawals!

What I love about blogging, and the all-encompassing nature of my work in general, is that I always feel that I have the liberty to write about whatever is on my mind.  Well, the following may seem like a radical departure from what we’ve been discussing lately, but the game I love playing more than any other is spotting very obvious fallacies and pouring salt on them like a helpless, innocent slug.  Today’s fallacy is that strength = muscle development.  It does not. 

While I’m no bodybuilder or powerlifter, I do love learning about simple fundamentals of human physiology.  You certainly don’t have to be able to hit home runs to know sports trivia.  The wide gap between strength development and muscle development is yet another very interesting physiological phenomenon.  One I can’t help but share.       

This came up recently as I was reading Martin Berkhan’s article about a new disease amongst exercisers called Fuckarounditis.  The article was hilarious, and there’s no doubt that Berkhan’s rapid increase in popularity over the past couple of years is well-earned.  The dude has created  a remarkable system and has found a way to do things with the human body that are unprecedented – namely, maintaining year-round, almost grotesque leanness at levels the human race has scarcely witnessed before, and doing so apparently without negative metabolic consequences (and having cheesecake and beer binges to boot).  The world’s top obesity experts should be studying what Martin is doing, and the tricks he is using to favorably manipulate leptin – to see if it really is something new and improved over all the crap that they already know doesn’t work.

But Martin definitely makes some big mistakes in that article, and the guy, as much as I like him, has made huge errors with his equating of strength and muscle gain throughout the course of his work.  Muscle growth comes from working a muscle really hard.  It does not come from gaining strength.  While one is bound to gain a little muscle from gaining strength, strength and muscle mass do not “intersect at the points that people would like you to believe that they do,” in the words of champion bodybuilder AND now champion powerlifter Kevin Weiss.


Being a good powerlifter (and even more so when it comes to Olympic style powerlifting) is about recruiting several muscles together in one fluid motion so that the primary muscles involved don’t have to do so much work.  It’s also about keeping the weight in the most favorable places from a leverage standpoint.  Essentially, it’s about taking the burden off of muscles working in isolation in their unfavorable leverage points. 

Bodybuilding is very different.  For muscle growth or hypertrophy, you want to be completely exhausting a muscle without relying on other muscles or momentum to help you complete the exercise.  For example, by working strictly within the range of motion of the abdominal muscles, you can turn a situp into an extremely difficult exercise and struggle to complete 10 reps at a slow, controlled pace.  Or you can involve momentum, your hip flexors, your back, your neck, even strap your hands behind your head for more leverage – and lo and behold you take all the pressure off of the abs and can do situps all day long.  The less you use your abs, the more situps you can do.

The same is true of powerlifting.  The easier you make the deadlift or squat or benchpress, the more weight you can lift.  You also build much more strength by working with the heaviest weight you can load up on – usually enough to perform just 2-3 repetitions, if that. 

But maximum muscle growth usually occurs in the 8-12 rep range for most people.  Thus, using lighter weight – actually erring on the light side, is even better because you can use the most unfavorable and muscle-torturing form and tempo to complete the exercise.  This works much better for muscle development – in the context of a program that is smart and a lot of intensity on behalf of the trainee.  I know.  This time last year I gained 15 pounds of lean mass in about two months without ever lifting a weight that I couldn’t perform at least 8 repetitions with. 

Anyway, just to prove a point – here are people suffering from many symptoms of what Martin calls Fuckarounditis.  Here we have talk of toning, functional exercise, bodyweight exercise, bosu balls, cables and tubing, Swiss balls piled on top of Swiss balls… But again, in the CONTEXT of the training being performed, and the broader elements of the program being used, the results speak for themselves.  If these people have Fuckarounditis, I hope it’s contagious.  To put it all into perspective, Scott Abel has 50 pounds more lean mass than Berkhan, but he does supported chin-ups (less than bodyweight), while Berkhan does weighted chin-ups (more than bodyweight).  Berkhan is much smaller and stronger than Abel, probably even stronger than Abel when he was a competitive bodybuilder at 5’9”, 270 pounds!  So yes, it’s okay to use a Swiss ball from time to time.      

93 Comments

  1. It said be the first to comment and woohoo! I am! Probably because everybody else is in bed.

    Very nice 180 on the subject matter, although I don’t personally care about muscles except on the hubby.

    Reply
    • Congrats Hawaii. Fitting that you are the first on the new site. That makes you pretty much #1 in my book forever. I will say that muscle mass preservation is probably unanimously agreed upon by all those who achieve successful weight loss as the most important thing. Especially for women who lose muscle more easily than men. And have a harder time building it. It’s time you skirts started pumping some frickin’ iron!

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  2. damn i was trying for firsties but it crashed on me

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  3. Yeah for the new website. I’m hoping to start weight lifting soon…still trying to heal my body and disordered eating. Love the look, Matt

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  4. Hmm. So, when I do finally start exercising again, I need to really re-think my routine…

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  5. As much as I like MB, and what he has been able to accomplish himself and help others do. I say “the machine” and Abel take the cake, they have the knowledge in both powerlifting and bodybuilding and have the world records to prove it.

    The pump, it’s better than……..i’ll leave the rest of it to Arnold and the pumping iron video!!

    I like the new layout BTW.

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  6. Impressed that this fed straight into my blogger reader–seamless!
    Fuckarounditis is a wonderful coinage. Maybe I need to start doing what Berkhan’s doing–although people freak if I talk about IF-ing, and I don’t know if I could retrain my blood sugar…

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  7. New site- yeah, sucka!

    I agree that strength doesn’t equal size, and wondered about that part of Martin’s article. I think he’s probably right that consistency and simplicity in training are valuable for most, though. His focus seems to be about retaining muscle mass (and maybe enhancing it somewhat), while leaning out, rather than straight hypertrophy. And yeah, enhancing functional strength too.

    Abel is about as good as it gets in my book, though my sense is that he requires lots more input for his results. For a wide audience, Martin is really great (and funny). I know he’s gone on bulking phases too, so I wonder what his protocol is for that- maybe it’s more like hypertrophy training.

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    • I think his training is the same all the time Rob. He does reverse pyramid training in the 3-5 rep range with basic movements and nothing else. Like he does deadlift, weighted chins, squats, bench, calf raises, and a couple other things and that’s it. The only thing he changes for bulking up is eating more calories. I think the simplicity of his program is key to his success, as well as the success of others. It is more sustainable for more people. But that doesn’t mean I want the guy to still go around assuming that strength = muscle development when so much of his other work is so scientifically sound.

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  8. Nice new site! Do you know if it’s possible to subscribe to blog comments here?

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  9. Nice place you have here Mattique boy. It’s nice and cozy. I see you’re still keeping the same company. Very nice. I was kind of hoping to see some new punks to whip into shape. Maybe now that I am back, your traffic will return to normal levels. I am sorry for my extended absence, but I have brought a few people along with me this time. I want to take the time to introduce you to my two new companions that will be with me from now on: Jesus and Siri. They are here to help me through this life. I don’t know how I made it as far as I have without them.

    I won’t comment on the subject at hand (even though I was the 1A-4A AL state powerlifting champion in 1997 which included a 295 pound benchpress at 162 pounds. In the years since capturing that awesome title, I have experimented with many different strength building and mass building programs. I have the genetics of a mouse when it comes to gaining size but have always been able to consistently get stronger with ease. It’s amazing how many people don’t know this simple “strength not equal to size” equation. I used to amaze people at being able to lift more weight than the big muscled up gym rats that did their 2+ hour workouts and flirting sessions with the front desk girl. Although, now I’m 32, am extremely inflexible, have a chronic shoulder blade pain and have disproportionate triceps, pecs, hammys, glutes with a forward head tilt and pathetic biceps, lats, quads and calves. I’m more concerned now with leveling everything out as well as getting more flexible so I can actually sit down in the floor with my legs crossed and play with my son without feeling like my hips are going to pop out of socket) because I don’t like to brag or talk about myself too much.

    I am definitely looking forward to the forum. I need some help from you guys getting some new quick recipes. I’m so sick of baked potatoes, rice, and fruit. I just don’t have time to cook anything else. I’m thinking the crock pot can help me out a lot.

    It’s so good to be back. PTL! (praise the Lord)

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    • Ah yes Johnny, back in style for the new stylin’ 180D. I think that is maybe my favorite comment out of you that I’ve ever heard – on many fronts. But maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder or something like that.

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  10. I like the new layout a lot! Looks more professional, less generic. And I really like how I can comment without opening up a new window.

    Also really looking forward to the forum.

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  11. …and am still in my size 32 pants, still at a stable 166 lbs following my 6 weeks of sprint work I did back in the spring. This body temp stuff is still amazing to me. I am incapable of gaining any fat mass no matter what I eat. And I know all I would have to do to lose any more weight is to get my lazy self off the couch and do sprint work for 5 mins a day a few times a week. For you newbs, this Matt Stone guy is amazing.

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  12. Yo! Love the look of this here place Mr. Stone. I have been ditching my weight lifting classes and going it on my own, doing a set of pretty punishing 8-10 x 3 sets of every body part. I like planks for abs and just standing with free weights works those things out too. The low heavy lift deal is boring and throwing around little girly weights 354 times just makes me crazy. er.
    Love you, see you in TexAss
    deb

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    • I will have Cash Money check that out next week when she gets back to a computer.

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          • Glad it help you :) Definitely makes my life easier to follow all comments!

  13. Found out a friend of mine is going to Wise Traditions and she says it’s pretty awesome, but I’m still leaning especially considering it would cost even more now for last minute plane tickets.

    In relation to Ela’s post about people freaking out if she even mentions intermittent fasting, I recently finished reading Pilon’s “Eat Stop Eat”, and that’s all about intermittent fasting. It really got me thinking. We’re conditioned to believe we need food all the time, when really, we don’t. It seems a lot of strategies use some form of intermittent fasting. Chief used it. Berkham uses it. RBTI sort of does it.

    The one thing I don’t understand, Brad Pilon goes on and on about there being no such thing as starvation mode, how people can fast for up to 48 or 72 hours and there’s no signs of their bodies going into a starvation mode. I was trying to reconcile this with everything I’ve learned about the metabolism slowing down and the study of Ancel Keys and the very definite symptoms of semi-starvation. Is it that low-calorie diets cause it? Or maybe low-calorie diets with the wrong foods? Or maybe low-calorie is different than fasting? Mattio… I’m looking at you. Please splain!

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    • Pilon is talking about the short-term, which is what made me claw at the screen when I read Eat Stop Eat. What happens in a 48 hour time period is not proof that something is a safe, effective, and sustainable practice. But calorie restriction for a week can drop leptin levels by as much as 50%. That will lower thyroid, lower testosterone, lower DHEA, raise cortisol – and pretty much do a full “starvation mode” on your ass.

      Speaking of asses, I’m really shocked that mine was 99.2F midday still, even though I’ve lost over 20 pounds at this point. Losing 20 pounds almost always results in a lowered body temperature. So I’m getting away with it for sure, or so it seems.

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      • This is not an isolated event Matt, In my weight loss experiments that involved voluntary or conscious calorie restriction almost always resulted in metabolic downgrading. Despite that, going about weight-loss my way I never got that “cold feeling” or reports of any symptoms from anyone that made me think spontaneous appetite reduction meant a reduction in metabolic activity. In my most recent findings (verified by thermometer), support the idea that taking the weight set point into consideration is the key to avoiding metabolic downgrading when the human body loses weight. ( most likely all mammals as well )

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  14. Interesante – but I wonder if from a health perspective, if taking your average desk jockey and throwing him into a hypertrophy program is the way.

    My guess is that most will do better at adopting the “healthy lifestyle” if they start with strength.

    For practical purposes, focusing on strength should be the priority for the average trainee IMHO :), ages 30 and up. The general population is weak. And weakness leads to a lot of other health issues. Strength gives immediate feedback in your life so it encourages you to keep going. It’s an electric feeling and a gift that keeps on giving in so many areas of life.

    I wonder what the research says on this but my guess is that it is easier to pursue bodybuilding after focusing on strength, than the other way around.

    Strength gives you options. You can easily transition into any of the other paths if you start with strength.

    Focusing on strength and movement quality in the beginning builds structure integrity and work capacity. Then after a certain point when you can correctly squat more than double your bodyweight, do 5 dead hang pullups, deadlift more than double your bodyweight, you’ll be in a great position to choose your path: a) bodybuilding b) athletic performance or Olympic lifting or c) pure strength

    All those paths have strength in common. There is a decent intersection in the beginning at least — but it probably is not as much as most people assume like you mentioned.

    Teaching the body and brain to recruit muscles together and be able to recruit tension well will only come in handy for the bodybuilder.

    Of course some people are painfully skinny and need to add mass — that’s a different story. But the population in general is fat, weak and stiff. Strength and movement quality will fix those issues faster than bodybuilding. Although if you have an elite bodybuilding coach like Abel, the truth is he’ll focus on movement quality and ROM too and you’ll be in good hands.

    Stay strong! -Yusuf

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    • Great and well-thought out comment Yusuf. What’s good about strength is that you can gain strength much more quickly than muscle mass, typically. This straightforward progression keeps people moving forward. Consistency is everything with exercise. You have to keep moving forward and keep graduating to ever higher heights. It’s also really simple, unlike the more complex and nebulous progressions that Abel uses. I think the simplicity of Berkhan’s program is its strength, no pun intended. But what both me and JT loved about Abel’s methods is that the risk of injury is much lower because you are using weight that is easy to handle, we both had the most dramatic increase in true flexibility that we’ve ever had, improved fitness levels by leaps and bounds, and got better growth. Berkhan is right that muscle mass preservation should be prioritized when losing fat. His system clearly gets the job done, and is easy – 3 short, simple workouts per week that anyone could follow. That still doesn’t make it scientifically correct to equate strength gains and mass gains as if they move perfectly in tandem.

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  15. how do you put a photo/ face to your post?

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    • I don’t know Chief. But I hope you figure it out.

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  16. Really good to see Johnny back! :)

    Lorelei was right, I was definitely in bed. The email about the new post came at 1:30am my time lol.

    Also, the post came through to my feed reader, as usual, but now the comments don’t! :(

    I like that peeps can reply to a specific comment, but how do they know when someone has replied to their comment? And peeps will naturally scroll to the bottom for the latest comments they haven’t read yet, likely missing new replies to comments. Anyway…

    Matt,

    Liking the new and improved 180! And good timing too. My latest project is finally done, so I will have more free time — maybe too much lol! Good thing I never get bored. I can always find something to entertain myself — even without turning on the TV lol. Hey… now that I have time, I should pump some iron :)

    BTW, I saw the new book (“Diet Recovery”) in the store. So it’s finished?

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    • Corena! Good to see you (literally!)- You’re done with your project, huh? How about Texas- whattaya say!?

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      • Yeah come on Corena. I can get you in as an extra booth worker. It’ll be you, me, Rob, Cash, and Pip.

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        • Sounds like fun. I’ll have to see what I can work out. When is it again?

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          • Nov 11-13, dear lady

        • What you kicked me off the booth team already??? Age Discrimination! I am planning an “Occupy Matt Stone’s Booth” protest with tents and everything. You have been warned.
          :-)

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          • :) needed a like button here .. lol

          • Dude, I would never. I just didn’t want to force you to work. I thought you were like retired or something. I think you should stand at the front door of the conference and offer people shopping carts as they walk in the door :)

      • Thanks Rob – it’s a webcam snapshot I took sitting in front of my netbook yesterday lol. Gonna see if I can still do Texas :)

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    • Yes, the book is finished. I uploaded it yesterday. Me and Cash will work on getting the comments to do magic things that make all you comment junkies happy. Love that pic AS.

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      • Matt, I agree with Corena (formerly AS). Having to scroll back thru to see the replies, most importantly yours of course, is time consuming. I already devote enough of my life to you!

        This is the place to say that I’m halfway thru the new version of Diet Recovery, and I have one comment: KITAVANS!

        And despite being overcome with jealously that others are going to join you in Texas, I shall remain secure in the knowledge that I am indeed #1 for all time!

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        • I agree with what Lorelei said about agreeing with what I said about the comments – I’m getting so confused LOL! I think I might just post new comments, like we did before, instead of “replies.” I don’t think this comment setup is intended for the way we 180 peeps use them lol :)

          Lorelei,

          Whatcha think about the book? Gonna recommend it to some peeps who desperately need to be freed of the “dieting” mindset.

          And you’re #1 in my book too :)

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          • In regar to the comment comments.

            I like this layout more, it does take time to scroll around, but I find it easier to keep track of the conversations. That said though. I won’t complain if it gets switched.

        • But dude, Hawaii Girl, it makes my life Soooo much easier – to be able to respond to one comment at a time and actually be looking at the comment while I’m responding to it. Just get used to it. And gloat more about your #1 all time status. Note – complaints or disagreement will not, in any way, jeopardize this status. Only doing the HCG diet can knock you out of that position.

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          • See now, I would have totally missed this comment if I hadn’t scrolled back up, because I didn’t see it on RSS… and then my day would have sucked so completely that there wouldn’t have been any reason to go on! I would think calling Condorman the worst movie ever would also jeopardize my status :) (couldn’t really comment on Condorman, though, since Mattflix does not yet exist).

      • Great. Glad the book is ready.

        That would be fantastic if “y’all” can make the comments magically appear in my feed reader again! :)

        Thanks Matt. Speaking of pics, that’s a good one on your Meet Matt page.

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  17. I think you should mix up bodybuilding and powerlifting together. I’m into cross training with other types of sports exercises too. 50-80-100% lifting of 1 rep maximum instead of just focusing on the 50% range or 80% range. I’ve seen olympic weightlifters and powerlifters get joint injuries alot and I think it’s because they don’t train at 50% instead focusing on the 8 rep range. For me doing 50% was doing 145 pounds 40 times while I could do 225 16 times and 285 1 time at 165 pounds of bodyweight naturally for bench press with powerlifting form. 80% would be a 8-12 rep max set. Cross-fitters are tiny because they only focus on 50% without any real strength building or increasing poundages from what I have seen. Do the full peice strength lifts such as powerlifting bench presses, overhead squats, squats, and deadlifts. Then add in some back exercises like pull ups and barbell rows. With bodybuilding you focus on isolating the muscle group and getting a burn, while in powerlifting you focus on overcoming your resistance to gravity in the heavier low rep range with the primary compound muscle group lifts. The powerlifting bench press improves the lower back strength and so increases deadlift and squat poundages. Deadlifts also increase leg, lower back, and upper back strength. I notice you get huge results when you work out an area of fitness you hadn’t been working in to your routine in the past. The results taper off once you work out that area on a constant basis. For example calisthenics will give an immediate aesthetic improvement for some but others get limited growth because their body is used to it while they don’t increase the threshold with weights, more challenging variations to what they’re already doing, or incorporating new exercises to muscles that hadn’t been worked as much in the routine. Teaching the body multi compound movements that work the upper body, mid body, and lower body give more “strength” as opposed to size. But those strategies can be used hand in hand for the full package of benefits. Different strengths can be developed from powerlifting, bodybuilding, and olympic weightlifting. Scott Abel appears to have limited mobility due to his massive size, while Kevin Weiss’ powerlifting bent has given him more usable strength because he’s not limited in his range of motion. That could also have to do with how they’re naturally built as Keven may not be able to get as bulky so as to limit his range of motion. Martin has very impressive results from what I have seen. Competitive bodybuilders can be extremely strong, but because of the extra mass from their lower weight ranges and steroids powerlifters can be stronger pound for pound. Those that emulate bodybuilders aren’t likely to be as strong as those that emulate powerlifting IMO. It’s much easier to put on size if you put on strength first. There are a ton of strength building strategies that need to be mixed up from all areas. Decreasing the amount of exercises and focusing on compound movements will give overall more muscle growth in some areas. Focusing too much effort with several exercises on one muscle will limit the overall development of the whole as opposed to fewer exercises that involve compound muscle groups instead. You should workout various strengths on a weekly or biweekly basis instead of switching up your routine every three months. You should stick to the various fundamentals and lightly modify it every week. Some people will focus on lower rep ranges for 3 months and then switch to higher rep ranges for another 3 months which will stunt growth IMO.

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    • Good comment Dan. A variety of everything is great. That’s why Abel’s program is so complete. You do deadlifts, snatches, deep squats, cleans, presses – plus a bunch of functional stuff like you might do in Crossfit, and then work everything in every possible range of motion imaginable within the best rep ranges for growth. The end result is you get everything out of it. Flexibility, strength, cardiovascular fitness, mobility, growth, and leanness.

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      • When you say high rep do you mean 50-100 reps? Sets that take 1 minute and thirty seconds might have good benefits of their own. Like 100 pushups and 100 body squats. Or 23 reps of heavy weights in a set. Periodization is very important, and doing everything within a weekly basis is far more effective than switching up every three months. I think that’s why it takes people 10 years to get anywhere. You maintain your strengths by doing them, hitting a plateau, and then work on other strengths so to be strong in all areas. I can see benefits to weekly periodization. Explosive training is plyometric, for upper and lower body, which develops a different part of the mucles and joints than the medium and slow paced movements. I had to do a 1-rep and 8-12 rep max, failure or short to failure, with perfect form to increase my poundages for the 50% and lower lifting ranges on a regular basis for both size and strength. To be conscious of working the various muscles with perfect form is a part of bodybuilding as opposed to doing the movement blindly, and not getting the burn in that targeted muscle or set muscle groups. That’s where other exercises come in from bodybuilding and bodyweight exercises outside of powerlifting and olympic weightlifting. I read on bodybuilding.com if you can get a certain weight 12 times, you should be able to hit your 1 rep max at certain weight. So if I can hit 225 12 times I should be able to to do 300 1 time. Powerlifters stay at 1-8 reps so they have more primarily type IIb muscle fibers. A good bodybuilder can lift heavy with both lower and higher rep ranges so they have both type IIa and IIb muscle fibers. If the powerlifters that could squat 1000 pounds did 12-30 max rep sets, plyometric max rep sets, and max 50-100 rep sets (1 minute and 30 second sets) their legs would be massive . HIT goes to failure, in those last reps more testosterone is produced because the type IIb muscle fibers are used.

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  18. If someone trains correctly they should meet their genetic potential in four years like a lot of football players I knew that could lift more than Martin’s listed lifting amounts in that article. Generally because of the time it takes to learn I could see why it would take most people 10 years. My strengths were equal or greater to Martin’s given amounts on the bench press, squat, and deadlift in my first 3 years of training. And that wasn’t consistant training either so it was more like 1 year of training. You can possibly get 50% of your entire growth in the first year if you train properly and frequently enough in your later teens. That’s after growth spurts and everything. There’s probably minor growth outside of lifting later on with the build expanding as we age. There were certain strengths I didn’t develop until later on as we all have our blind spots. My bodyweight to lift ratio were elite when I was 165 pounds of bodyweight. It’s more difficult to meet those elite ratios once I got over 190 pounds of bodyweight. But that could mean I still have a little ways to go since I haven’t met the elite ratios at 220+ pounds of bodyweight. My best bench press recently was 295 pounds bodybuilding style. I did three repetitions of 275 pounds in a set with bodybuilding style. I did 285 pounds twice in a set with bodybuilding style bench press. I did powerlifting 245 pounds 8 repetitions in a set just a month ago. It takes a lot of carbohydrates to fuel a workout so keeping the workouts shorter can be more effective. I believe one should do as high an intensity running as they can, and to only do it for a short duration if they choose to do so. Running and sprinting increased my VO2Max to where I had more breathing capacity for my lifting reps. Running uses up more glycogen than most weight exercises so people get great results when they cut running out. I agree that you should do heavy lifting with weights in the 50%-80%-100% of 1 repetition maximum range three times a week. You can get good results if you do them atleast twice a week. Some people split muscle groups into a total of six days a week but they should work every body group twice a week even if it’s a split. I personally believe in a full body routine so I lift weights 3 times a week. Every body group should be given 48 hours of rest inbetween. If you have time you should do yoga/stretching everyday of the week. Thorough stretching should be saved for after a workout. Your form should always be good every set. My form is perfect even to failure. You do need to equally train each side of the body to be as strong as the other to get good form in the final exhausting repetitions otherwise you’re risking injury.

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  19. I do like that Scott Abel includes rapid movement momentum exercises in his routine. It could be called explosive strength like what Olympic weightlifters do. It’s hard to comment on his strength as I don’t have his maximum recorded lifting amounts. If I were to do his routine I’d do a lot more of the powerlifting bench press, firm squeezing hard grip on the barbell and dumbell on all the exercises periodically, add in lower and higher poundage ranges, go to failure, do less sets, and do the primary compound movements first. I can see why it’s easier to take out the less important exercises as people run out of glycogen half way into their workout and end up overtraining. Martin recommended shorter workouts with the more important exercises for this reason. I might also turn Scott’s routine into a 3 day a week full body workout sessions. It’s kind of hard to do that because of the amount of glycogen you’d need to load up on to sustain that long of a workout. There may be benefits a 6 day workout as long as you work out every muscle group twice a week and rest each muscle group 48 hours inbetween.. I don’t agree with the binging as it’s expensive to eat that much food. I’d much rather take in enough protein and complex carbohydrates everyday to maintain my muscle mass. I’m not aware of if these guy’s systems are food budget conscious. I do like the idea of eating fewer but bigger glycogen loaded meals everyday as it takes less time. If you follow the eating fundamentals for gaining muscle or losing fat while maintaining or gaining muscle you don’t need to do silly ridiculous diet fad changes that make no sense like what a lot of people do. You need to be aware of all the glycogen your lean tissue needs even when resting so when you cut glycogen you end up losing lots of muscle in the “weight loss” phase of a plan.

    Here’s Kevin Weiss’ lifting amounts at 196 pounds of bodyweight. Maybe I need to shoot for these lifting amounts personally as a long term goal.. My upper back needs to get a lot stronger too:
    Squat 567 pounds
    Bench 463 pounds
    Deadlift 573 pounds
    I don’t know Martin’s lifting amounts and bodyweight but I’d like to know to see what his incredible strength feats are. The upper back exercises are equally important as that’s an easily ignored region of the body. Upper back strength evens out posture and increases the strength of the compound muscle exercises such as the bench press.

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    • Weiss is drug-free and unnassisted in all of those lifts – and he only trained for 12 weeks! That’s amazing. He definitely has a shot if he is going to train hard for say, a year, to break whatever records he likes.

      I had problems with Abel’s workouts because I was totally zapped after 25 minutes. Then got that fruity out-of-glycogen breath going. If I were to go at it again I would slowly build up the duration of the workout – starting slowly. I think training hard in a glycogen-depleted state is probably extraordinarily stressful to the system.

      Reply
      • I liked Martin’s reverse pyramids. I also believe you should start at the heaviest and work your way down. I read an article from Scott where he recommends doing a 8-12 rep max set, and then doing 40% of the weight in a explosive plyometric upper body set with the same exercise. I’m thinking these four rep ranges should be focused on heaviest to lightest: 100% (1 rep max), 80% (8-12 rep max), 50% (1 minute), and 33% (1 minute 30 seconds) of 1 rep max. If you do a movement slower in medium rep range you’re working the same muscle fibers as if you’re working a weight faster in a higher rep range if it’s done in the same amount of time. A 1 minute and 30 second set is equivalent to 33% intensity. Resistance is based on how long you can hold the gravity of a poundage as you lower and raise the weight. Atleast with the primary compound lifts these various rep ranges should be used together, but I don’t think every rep range is necessary for every routine. Instead some of the rep ranges should be periodicized so when you plateau on that range, you temporarily change to something else or just do another rep range instead. This also saves time. I have to rest the 1 rep maxes 6 minutes, and if I go to failure on a 8-12 rep max I also have to rest 3-6 minutes. 85% of ATP is recovered in the first minute after doing a set that involved the type IIa fast twitch muscle fibers, and 100% of it recovers after 3 minutes. Type IIb fast twitch muscle fibers take a lot longer to recover. Going to failure in a set that predominately uses the Type IIa also works the Type IIb so you may need the longer rest time in them, maybe up to 6 minutes.

        Reply
  20. Excellent post my friend. I like what you’ve done with the place.

    Reply
    • The problem is most people overtrain, don’t eat enough, and practice bad form. They get injured for these reasons. That’s what I like about Scott Abel, he uses good form, focuses on the muscles used, and stresses those over heavy poundages. A proper situp or crunch should avoid putting stress on the spine. People don’t focus on the muscles worked and so they end up putting strain on the spine. If the target muscles are emphasized throughout the entire movement you shouldn’t harm your spine at all. You won’t be able to get as many repetitions because you become aware your abs are tired and stop doing the movement instead of forcing reps and hurting your spine. You don’t want to pull your body in beyond flexion of the abs because that also puts undue strain on the spine. For the seated sit-up I also rely heavily on my hips and legs as stabilizers along with the abs, while crunching into my abdominals. In other movements such as the bent over rows, straight leg deadlifts, squats, and deadlifts you also want to rely on your lower back, hips/hip abductors inner outer, vastus laterilas (outside part of thigh), glutes, quads, hamstrings, and abs to stabilize the weight while keeping the spine straight not curved. If you focus on overall muscle development the regions will be used equally, and undue strain on any one region can be completely avoided.

      Reply
  21. I did mean to say you don’t want to cut glycogen when losing “weight” as in losing fat. That’s a mistake people do make. When they cut glycogen during fat loss phase they end up losing lots of muscle. While it’s pleasing to see weight drop on the scale the effort was worthless as that was muscle if you cut glycogen. You do need to cut fat. I have heard of cutting the fat with a ketogenic diet. But you have to watch what you eat very carefully if you do a ketogenic diet, and you need to eat a ton of protein for it to work. I’m still a little skeptical of a ketogenic diet because when you have a deficit of carbohydrates during exercise you produce cortisol and lower hormone production. I’ve seen stories and pictures of athletes/bodybuilders on a ketogenic diet. Their results don’t look nearly as good, it’s not long term, they look kind of tired, and when it is long term their results don’t stay they good. People who do high intensity exercise and follow a ketogenic diet report having hormone and energy issues after a couple months or even on the first week. Keeping loaded on glycogen with complex carbohydrates such as what Scott Abel does makes a lot more sense. I think Martin doesn’t need as much glycogen because his workouts are shorter and less frequent but it sounds like he has some and doesn’t do the ketogenic diet. Martin has most of the carbohydrates on workout days and not as many on non-workout days while keeping protein intake relativily high. I’m of the opinion you don’t need more than 150g of protein a day if you have enough complex carbohydrates daily.

    Reply
  22. Jack Lalanne must be a temporal anomaly as he survived and stayed healthy with exercise into his older years. You’d think all that exercise would leave him cripple if all that information in those articles were true. There’s probably people with poor bone/joint health, poor diet, and are sedentary older individuals that have those exercise health issues. Years of undereating, overworking, eating lots of nutrition deficient food, and drinking lots of alcohol. Some people have very difficult bodies due to unaware habits and can’t really do anything without spontaneously combusting or something. Does that gymnast have asthma, metabolic syndrome, or alergies because she was heaving. Or it could be undereating which is a lifestyle athletes like to follow because it’s believed to be effective to their sport even though people say you need enough carbohydrates to fuel your sport. She does look lean and in exceptional shape, but many athletes cut it close with food intake when they maintain exceptional aesthetic including many bodybuilders. IMO, those guys in that video downplay the importance of powerlifting for the sport of bodybuilding. I think the tall guy’s bodybuilding shape would meet new levels if he developed 100% of his powerlifting strength instead of 60% of his powerlifting strength for bodybuilding. My physique looked best when I applied both powerlifting and bodybuilding principals together, as did the initial teacher that taught me those principals. My aesthetic would be crappy if I ignored the powerlifting principals when bodybuilding such as lifting heavy but also with higher rep sets too. The classic bodybuilders said powerlifting was a huge part of what they learned when they lifted. Arnold, Franco Columbu, and many others were extremely strong. Ronnie Coleman can deadlift 800. Several heavyweight bodybuilders can bench press and squat over 500 during their competition phase.

    http://www.kewego.com/video/iLyROoaftMaM.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zfnx0J0Z7c8

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_LaLanne

    1976 (age 62): To commemorate the “Spirit of ’76″, United States Bicentennial, he swam one mile (1.6 km) in Long Beach Harbor. He was handcuffed and shackled, and he towed 13 boats (representing the 13 original colonies) containing 76 people.[32]
    1979 (age 65): towed 65 boats in Lake Ashinoko, near Tokyo, Japan. He was handcuffed and shackled, and the boats were filled with 6,500 pounds (2,900 kg; 460 st) of Louisiana Pacific wood pulp.[33]
    1980 (age 66): towed 10 boats in North Miami, Florida. The boats carried 77 people, and he towed them for over one mile (1.6 km) in less than one hour.
    1984 (age 70): handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents, towed 70 rowboats, one with several guests, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1 mile.[34]

    Reply
  23. Welcome to your new home, Matt. It’s beautiful. We’ll try not to spill beer on your autographed copy of Female Hormones in Context or play too much “hide the refractometer.”

    I’m not surprised you’re getting into the ring with Martin Berkhan, but I thought you might spar over a different topic: meal schedules. Martin has argued the benefits of eating large amounts late in the day — very un-RBTI.

    I’m experimenting with big lunches and small dinners now, with mixed success. Some days I side with Martin, but more often w/ you and Challen. We’ll see…

    Thanks again for your thoughtful answers to my previous questions.

    Sir Eat-a-Lot
    Knight of the Round Stomach
    (“I like big spuds and I cannot lie.”)

    Reply
    • PS: If you want me to be a loyal 180 reader for life, all you need to do is keep posting clips of Desiree Walker’s workouts.

      Sir Eat-a-Lot

      Reply
      • I don’t think Berkhan is necessarily opposed to an early in the day feeding window, just that eating later seems to work for people’s schedules (workouts, socializing, etc.) more often, and produces better compliance and thus better results.

        Reply
        • I hear you, Rob A.; thx for clarifying. I’m not saying Berkhan is necessarily opposed to a.m. feeding. As the following post indicates, however, he thinks there are significant physiological (as well as practical) benefits to eating later:

          http://www.leangains.com/2011/06/is-late-night-eating-better-for-fat.html

          Given Matt’s advocacy of big lunches and small dinners, I was curious about what he thought of Berkhan’s views on the subject.

          Reply
        • “eating later seems to work for people’s schedules (workouts, socializing, etc.) produces better compliance and thus better results”

          I have found this to be true as well, I would say that a large part of it is the social/lifestyle aspect but oddly in the experiments with sleep patterns there seems to be more at play within the body. My test subjects that had absolutely no social life ( geeks) and also those that technically have no schedule (unemployed/self employed) mostly ended up slowly gravitating naturally to a larger meal in the evening without that being their original goal. I usually tell everyone to pick a 4 to 8 hour bracket in between ten am and ten pm depending on what works for you. 90 percent end up in the “sweet spot” of 3pm to 8 pm. personally I’m in the 4 30 to 9 zone. usually not hungry after 7 and typically eat around 5 30.
          those that are extremely active ( Dean Karnazes bat shit crazy style ) are usually the only ones that stick to the larger midday meal.

          personally, I have noticed that it is much easier to relax in the evening, better sleep (without an alarm), and not need to snack after supper ( which only screws up hunger signals and blood sugar the next day ) if the bulk of my food is eaten around 4-6 pm (waking around 8 am ) i can usually tell you what time it is by hunger alone in that window. That’s how precise your body gets when your doing it all correctly. sugar is stable, hunger is absent except at meal times, energy is high, mind is focused and your body warmth makes the ladies wanna cuddle ;)

          Reply
          • That’s the Chief I know and love. The Cuddler. :-)

    • I will have to try a reverse meal schedule sometime, to compare and contrast. I have no doubt that both work for the puposes of losing body fat.

      Reply
      • you are correct matt both work for fat loss, personally I have seen better overall results with the 3 – 8 pm window in most people.

        Reply
        • Thanks, Matt and Chief. I’d be curious to hear about your experiments, Matt.

          Reply
        • The “eating window” debate is interesting to me too…

          BTW, with regard to the RBTI guidelines, I’m curious to know if the “light dinner” and “no meats or sweets after 2pm” rules came from Reams originally, or are those Challen’s rules/conclusions based on his observations and experience with the RBTI?

          I am one who has a flexible schedule. Although it can be unpredictable and not the same from one day to the next (and I love it!), I can usually eat whenever I want to. I’ve always been a listen to my body kinda gal and it tends to lean toward the later “sweet spot” too. I generally don’t get hungry until later in the day, so it’s tough for me to remember to eat breakfast — and sometimes even lunch (before 2pm anway).

          However, this could be because my life is more interesting (and funner!) to me than food is — and so I often forget to eat. Someone has to remind me to eat lol! When I do eat, I wanna hurry up and get back to whatever I was doing. So having to take even more time to cook is the worst. Hmm… so I need someone to cook for me too — like a personal chef lol! :)

          Anyway… for me, eating later in the day isn’t so much for the social/schedule aspect of it, it’s that that’s when I naturally feel hungry — in contrast to my lack of hunger in the first part of the day. But I do realize that my lifestyle could be the reason for that. I know that a person’s body/hunger can adjust to their eating habits.

          Chief, welcome back! :)

          I know that you find the later eating window to be more effective for the purposes of fat-loss… and that you have observed other benefits (better sleep, high energy, mental-focus, hunger only at feeding time, warmth, stable blood sugar, etc.) as well. I’m curious to know your thoughts/opinions (if any) on the health benefits and healing claims (of the RBTI) in a person eating the bulk of their calories before 2pm and no meats or sweets after 2pm.

          Have you noticed a difference in health gains, in your test subjects, between those who mostly eat early in the day and those who eat later? Probably not an easy (balanced?) comparison, I know, since you say that 90% gravitate towards eating later.

          Interested in hearing others peeps’ experiences with this too.

          Reply
          • Thank you Corena,
            as for the ten percent, that just seems to mesh with their personal choices and lifestyles. For the most part, I think it does not require much “effort” or struggle for most people to maintain eating the bulk of their food in the evening as a lifestyle, It seems to not require any force or will power. perhaps it is simply due to growing up with a focus of supper that one gravitates to it. Some other cultures such as spain that typically eat a big lunch might “automatically” shift to lunch. Personally I have really given the mid day meal thing a serious attempt on numerous occasions because alot of buffets have lunch specials and alot of my business meetings were free for all carte blanche style :) ha ha

            I also feel that post work out is a good time to pig out and as it seems the body peaks around 3 to 4 pm for mechanical work 5 to 9 seems fit the bill for eating. ( i rarely do heavy work 100% fasted though)

            I can’t think of any reason why the amount of fat loss would be different enough to have any practical advantage simply due to time of day with all other factors being similar. At the same time the circadian rhythm can be affected by eating and studies have shown people that lack proper sleep tend to have weight issues, i think indirectly the time aspect can play a significant role in how all the other things work in the body but again I’d rater see someone succeed 70 % of the way with a 2 pm meal time then to fail at everything else.

            as far as what i call eating “heavy eating” sweet things, alot of meat starches etc after the “main meal”. in my observations it leads to fluctuations in hunger times and energy levels throughout the day whereas things like say, v 8 juice, salads, with little to no dressing, a piece of jerky or or perhaps a few nuts or a handful of blueberries as a snack does not seem to impact things overall when eaten during post or pre eating window. So even though i never did any uber-awesome Pee Pee testing , I’m sure this rule of thumb would show up eventually as it is quite hard to randomly eat a candy bar at 11 pm and not notice disruptions the next day. I am interested in see what the pee pee tests say about the two windows.

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  26. Undertow,

    There was no reply button displayed for your comment to me lol.
    You wrote:
    “Glad it help you :) Definitely makes my life easier to follow all comments!”

    Mine too. So that made my day… thanks!! :) Now I’m on the search for a new reader or a way to customize Google Reader – cause the new design they rolled out this week sucks! :( But I just found a script for FF that claims to make GR look and feel more like the old design. Hope so. Gonna go try it out now. I’ll come back and share it if it works – for those who hate GR’s new design too.

    Reply
    • I use Thunderbird, which is an email client. But you can add RSS feeds, so I collect all my calendars, email(gmail, etc) and RSS feeds in one client. That may be a option for you.

      Reply
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  28. Hi Matt,

    Do you have a sample of Scott Abel’s workouts? I’ve seen them before but not for a longtime. I just want to see what his rep ranges and sets are. And I want to see if he goes to failure. I think I remember him saying to go to failure in a video but that could have just been for a temporary time period of workout. Does he even do 1 rep max, 8 rep max, 12 rep max, and 30+ rep max sets? (max=going to failure). I’ll look around myself but if you can post a link to his mass and strength gaining workouts I’d like to see. I do want to get some of his videos as his workouts do look well rounded. I don’t like if he’s the kind of guy that says “you can’t do that” forcing certain execises and workout strategies to be off limits which would screw up my workouts, an annoying thing some people do in the gym like what Martin described in his article. I do want to experiment with his tempo and program design so I do want to get his videos. I’m actually able to maintain my full strength through a 3 hour workout as long as I load up on glycogen first. It would have been an hour and a half hour workout but I took 3-5 minute rest inbetween each set. I always do the compound lifts first and can lift with my full strength every 48 hours. I have tricks to fully recover inbetween workouts such as beta alanine and creatine monohydrate non-micronized. These supplements boost your recovery from lactic acid buildup inbetween a set and after workouts. They’re cheap too. Avoiding acidic foods and having plenty of alkaline foods such as fruits will increase your recovery substantially too. So I’m not weaker during a bodybuilder phase vs. a powerlifter phase described in Scott’s video because I mix in all lift ranges including the heaviest ones. I did take in sugarcane like what Dr. Ellington Darden recommended for a HIT workout but would not recommend it and instead say to get complex carbohydrates. I trained for two months with this routine and here is what I looked like at 235 pounds, 23% bodyfat:

    http://tinyurl.com/3h892rt

    http://tinyurl.com/3q8tglo

    While they’re not listed within those two months some of my routines included the 30+ max repetition sets and I didn’t do the 1 repetition max set in most of my later routines. I went to failure on all of my exercises. Had I done sprinting and short duration max running my workouts would have been better, but even this most people can’t survive without hurting themselves. I actually didn’t get hurt or injuries or anything doing this routine. I did warm up, some calisthenics after the workout, and a half hour of yoga/stretching after the workout.

    Reply
  29. I’m not all that impressed with Martin Berkhan and Leangains. Granted, some aspects of his approach and program are insightful. Moreover, some people will indeed do very well on his program.

    However, his approach seems very cookie-cutter; he leaves no room for individual “needs states” (as far as I can tell, anyway) and any sort of bio feedback is absent from his program, other than simple-minded external cues.

    He seems well-researched in his particular arena (fasting), and has arguably coached many people to success in their physique goals. But I doubt that he could ever successfully coach an individual who is not already in the physiological and psychological condition** –or at least close to said condition– which is necessary to do well on his program. This stems from the aforementioned “cookie-cutter” approach and his arrogant, dualistic, reductionist, paradigm blindness.

    Witness his response to someone who asked about Scott Abel’s cycle diet:

    “I know from experience that such an approach, six days of dieting then eating as much as you can for a day, is counterproductive and dumb.

    Yes, you’ll bump up leptin, but it returns to baseline within days, and the negative effect of such gluttony is miniscule compared to the fact that you ate a bunch of shit, put on fat, took many steps back in your progress and now need to deprive yourself severly for several days to make up for the behavior.

    It’s also a sure fire way to develop an eating disorder that has much in common with bulimia. Look at these people in the off season, Most look subpar and it’s not far fetched to claim that their all-or-nothing-attitude has something to do with this.

    That being said, some get away with it – most notably, doped up bodybuilders and figure competitors. Or the rare individual that is able to take a moderate approach and knows that he’s supposed to stop eating when he’s feeling full (many people that engage in the shall we call it “Scott Abel” approach seem to lack this quality, believe me I know and I’ve been there).

    So, I guess in summary, I guess what I’m saying is that I think the approach is fucking dumb, basically.

    However, a structured refeed, popularized by Lyle McDonald among others, is another thing. The overfeeding phase I am referring to as part of my method is also similar in that regard, meaning it has rules and is not a free-for-all. This way you can flip the positives (leptin, glycogen replenishment, anabolism) in your favor, without the negatives and without having to starve yourself for the rest of the week, just so you can eat yourself silly and feel like shit for a day.”

    Hmm…Like I said, he is well-researched in supporting his particular approach. But as the above quote demonstrates, at least to anyone familiar with the cycle diet, he suffers from a paradigm blindness that does not admit any sort of individualism. Nor does his blindness allow for any curiosity about other (more) successful coaches approaches –he dismissed it without a second thought and threw in a bunch of pseudo-sciencism to boot.

    Scott Abel considers the individual before he puts them on any sort of program, including the cycle diet. For the cycle diet, he considers leptin sensitivity and diet/fitness history; sometimes he will tell people to try the calorie spike day to determine their bio feedback and see if the diet is for them.

    Martin does none of these things. Scott Abel is not always right (who is?), but he does explicitly consider the person he is working with. Martin has very little to offer the fitness world beyond the simplicity of his program.

    Reply
    • By the way, that rather long quote, which I should have block quoted so my comment would be easier to read (ha, ha), is from Martin’s post located at this link: http://www.leangains.com/2009/08/questions-answers.html.

      Go to the bottom of the page, the quote is about the 6th comment from the last.

      Reply
    • I read in one of Martin’s Leptin articles that he feels strong and energetic even at 5.5% bodyfat. So I don’t think he had the lower body temperature either. He says it’s because he eats enough food and doesn’t starve himself. He always eats enough food for sufficient energy. It sounds like the Cycle diet involves lower eating on most days and then binging one day a week which could cause energy issues when one gets down to lower bodyfat. The higher amount of exercise with lowered eating may cause the energy issues and is what a lot of bodybuilders do. I got a lot of strength gains when I was 18 when I followed a reverse pyramid heavyweight exercise style Martin recommends. I did mostly the compound lifts, only 7 exercises a routine 3X a week, and ate about as much food though not as much protein or carbohydrates as I probably should have.

      Reply
  30. Hey Matt,

    What are those weird comments in some other language? and did you see that some people leave some adds as comments

    Good post otherwise :-).

    Martin.

    PS : how do you leave the website site thing empty??

    Reply
  31. This article only just now, caught my attention…

    There are a few fallacies, rather common ones (so excusable) in this article. So, sorry Matt, but I am forced to pour some salt on these ideas of yours, like a helpless, innocent slug haha.

    One of the myths that have been handed down through the years is that there are separate programs that can be used to develop size, strength, power, definition, and short-term muscular endurance. Almost any program will deliver at least some results, but your development will be based upon your genetic potential. Your potential for size and strength was determined at conception and cannot be changed by the type of program used. Just as playing basketball will not make you seven feet tall, using a given program will not change your genetic predisposition to put on muscle.

    Strength is ALWAYS dependent on size, ALWAYS! (That’s different of course than saying that the bigger man is always the strongest but, if the same person gets bigger through proper strength training and they increase their muscle mass, they will, undoubtedly, be stronger. I’m talking absolute strength here of course; relative strength (to one’s body mass), is another thing and, bigger subjects are always at a disadvantage here…). Put another away, INCREASING THE CROSS-SECTIONAL AREA OF A MUSCLE ALWAYS CORRELATES WITH INCREASED STRENGTH. Not linearly of course, that’s not what I’m saying, but increasing muscle mass will increase strength.
    The difference lies in how one’s genetics allows this to unfold. If you put two people on the exact same program, chances are the results will be different. One will get bigger (but still get stronger), while maybe less strong than the other subject, who will have added less lean mass to his frame.

    The other big mistake is forgetting that strength sports (meaning powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting and to some extent, strongmen competitions; sorry too Matt but, I had to ask, what the heck is “Olympic style powerlifting”???) are, first and foremost, skill sports. By that I mean that lifting a max load for one rep is a skill that needs to be practiced. Getting stronger in that sense will, for the most part, not make you bigger (if you ONLY trained within this very low-rep scheme) and, paradoxically too, not necessarily stronger. “Stronger” (or more skilled) in a given lift, but not necessarily stronger across the board. That’s why simply changing exercise, even to a very similar one (for example, going from a press to a dumbbell press), will make you think you’ve actually grown weaker. It’s not muscle confusion! It’s simply that you haven’t practiced a specific and given movement for a while, and you’ve lost the ability, temporarily, to do it with as much skill or, more scientifically, you are not recruiting as many motor neurons in concert as quickly and as effectively as you had. The central nervous system learns and stores only essential information. The ability of the body to retain high levels of skill, strength and conditioning is very poor. The only way to retain and transfer skills to the playing field is to practice literally thousands of specific repetitions exactly as performed in competition. Just ask a basketball player what happens to his shot if he does not shoot for a few days. He has lost a certain amount of what the nervous system now perceives as nonessential information. That is also why, for instance, batting with a heavier bat, or shooting with a heavier basketball, or running with a heavy load, does NOT make you better at these given activities. The new patterns in fact disrupt the ideal and optimal pattern, simply because this new information is stored, preferentially to the more optimal one. Hence the importance of training for strength in the gym, and keeping skill training out of the gym, and on the field/court, etc. Important reminder then: Skill has nothing to do with building strength. Skill has to do with demonstrating how strong you are.

    To give credit where it’s due though, Matt did get it right here: [Powerlifting is] about recruiting several muscles together in one fluid motion so that the primary muscles involved don’t have to do so much work. It’s also about keeping the weight in the most favorable places from a leverage standpoint. “ AND here: “The easier you make the deadlift or squat or benchpress, the more weight you can lift.” These, are in fact, part of the skill aspect of strength sports I was talking about. That, and learning to recruit as many muscles as quickly as possible.

    Unfortunately, there is, in fact, no valid basis for comparing the strength of one individual to that of another. Let me explain… Assuming, first equal length in muscular structure, a 16-in arm will contain about twice as much muscle mass as a 14-in arm (cross-sectional area). Everything else being equal, the former should produce twice as much power but, this does not mean it will actually DEMONSTRATE twice as much power or, lift twice as much weight. For instance, simply changing the length of the levers (if comparing two different individuals in this case) would have a significant effect on the strength that can be demonstrated. A longer lever, which will be more likely in a bigger person, will need more power to move the same load over the same distance. Other things will have significant factors on measurable strength as well, things such as attachment points of muscles, and angles of insertion. In fact, even in comparing the same man’s arm which would have grown bigger over time, the leverage factor will in fact be against him. The pull of direction will be different, thus changing the efficiency ratio.

    Champion strength sport athletes, from which many of our false assumptions come, are in fact champions for genetic reasons (compounded with hard work!!!). Remember the favorable leverages that Matt mentioned above. These champion athletes will tend to have optimal leverages and optimal limb and torso length to allow the best expression of their strength potential. Not to mention that, the bulk of their training will, for the most part, revolve around a a rep scheme (lower reps, higher set) which will favor the skill of lifting heavy weights in favor of building muscle mass. The fiber ratio they will have been dealt at birth, also, will be quite favorable, not unlike elite sprinters and jumpers.

    As above, one also needs to consider the fact that the elite bodybuilder may, in fact, have been endowed with bad leverage factors, at least insofar as strength sports are considered, yet this trait gets turned in his favor, thanks to his choice of activity.

    Some people can build muscle mass easily, while others are more adept at demonstrating strength. A few remarkable specimens are able to do both. One thing is clear though. Scott Abel would be weaker if he got smaller. Same with anyone. Would Scott Abel be stronger relative to his bodyweight if he got smaller? Possibly. And, we have to remember that size-to-strength ratio comparisons are only valid for a given individual, and can’t be applied between individuals.

    Reply
    • Eric-

      Legendary comment Eric!! Fantastic stuff. Also, how would you explain that Kevin Weiss got 40% weaker as he gained size?

      Reply
  32. Could be different reasons Matt… A few I can think of off the top of my head: lean mass gain vs overall weight gain (some people, in an attempt to bulk up, actually end up eating too much and getting bigger, yes, but weaker). Also refer to my 4th to last paragraph (insertion points and pulling points) for another possible reason.

    The most likely reason I would say though, refers back to the “skill side” of the equation. I don’t know the specifics of Mr Weiss’s training and testing but, I’d be willing to bet that’s where the main issues lie…

    I’ll start by saying this: one trick new strength coaches use when they first come into a program is to “test” the players to see “how much” they lift. They will choose exercises that the athletes have not done, have not done often, have not done in a long time, or have not trained in the fashion that the new coach tests (e.g., one rep max. instead of repetitions). He will then test them eight weeks later and show a huge “increase” in “strength” in order to make himself look good. This is called “pushing
    numbers” and is neither difficult to do nor the best way to train athletes.

    In essence, I would be willing to bet that Mr. Weiss’s “weakening” is, in fact, a direct result of the opposite phenomenon detailed above. (If you listen to the videos too, there is mention of him doing no or less bench press, or using a different bench press technique than what he used for powerlifting.) For instance, if you benched powerlifting style for a macrocycle or two, pushing your numbers and using every trick in the book to make the movement more easy and efficient in order obtain a “competition1RM”, then took some time off from that approach and did different movements according to different rest/sets/reps etc. schemes, you just shouldn’t expect your bench number to be the same down the line… People make this out to be soooo complicated, and in reality, it’s not!!!!

    In this case, it would be very reasonable to expect someone to gain mass (through hypertrophy-type training) and lose, temporarily at least, the ability to demonstrate the strength (i.e., skill haha) he had. Simple hey ;)

    Reply
  33. Hi, Matt. I just wanted to say thank you for your support of my blog since it strated. I sincerely appreciate it :)

    Good article. You know I actually met Magnus Ver Magnusson and Jesse Marunde and went up to them at a Strongman competition. Jesse passed on sadly. Both of them were big, but there are bodybuilders bigger, but not nearly as strong.

    Magnus was bent over sitting in front of us as my brother said he imagines him in Iceland eating pies now that he is retired. He HAD to have heard that. LOL !!!!!!!! But , yes, he was not quite as “big” muscle size wise as you MIGHT expect, but VERY strong.

    Jesse Marunde has videos on the Internet of lifting a 500 pound behind the neck push press and he holds it for a bit. he was a great person and incredibly strong.

    Take care, Matt

    Raz

    Reply
  34. lmao @ Lyle’s picture

    Reply
  35. BTW, some have argued that this cannot be true (i.e., losing strength that way, just because a main movement isn’t trained for 1-3 RMs), since folks like all the Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell, who have produced some of the strongest beasts on this planet, rotate the main movements every 1 to 3 weeks. BUT, the thing they forget is that every week, they also do Dynamic Effort training, using essentially and pretty much the same movements every workout (DE bench on upper body days, DE box squats on lower body days, sometimes DE deadlifts). Some would gather from this that rotating movements like that is good (on ME (maximal effort), and prevents burnout, while the DE days allows for speed work. I think the mechanism of action is different. The speed days (DE days), in effect, are acting as a continual skill component of the training. Thus, every week, the WSB guys are, in fact, practicing their movements with lower weights. The speed days, are in fact, skill days.

    If you look at some of the greatest Olympic lifters of all time, the Bulgarians, under Ivan Abadjiev, they actually only used a few basic movements (a very small pool of movements really, consisting of the Clean and Jerk, power clean, Snatch, power snatch and, occasionally, front squats) and trained them every day, multiple times a day, always trying to achieve a 1RM for that day (different from competition 1RM or all-time 1RM – for the purpose of this discussion however, I won’t delve into this deeper). Suffice to say for now though that these guys were strong because they didn’t mess around with a variety of movements (no Fuckarounditis then!!!), and always practiced skills specific to their movements and, for the most part, trained within a rep/set scheme that favoured nervous system arousal without messing up recovery over time, and in line with maintaining optimal motor patterns and body mass. There’s more to it than that, but I’ll spare you the rest of the details :)

    Reply
  36. Kevin Weiss probably lifts at 60% of his 1 rep max when doing bodybuilding, but may not be necessarily 40% weaker. Also, he’s looked much bigger outside of his bodybuilding pictures (muscular size and bodyweight) so I personally think he sacrifices too much strength and size to get down to his contest bodyfat and contest weight. It’s an idea, but he does look massive and muscular in his competition pictures, so it would be interesting if he could get bigger than that. He does more bodybuilding type exercises during his bodybuilding routine, but still does some power exercises maybe with the bodybuilding form. If he can’t even lift optimally at the 80% range then he might be getting weaker due to lack of complex carbohydrate intake. Maybe he needs to eat a lot more complex carbohydrates hours before and after his workout so he can fuel more strength for his workouts. Inadequate muscle and liver glycogen causes the Type IIa and IIb muscle fibers to decrease, meaning less strength and size, I believe it also decreases testosterone which boosts the immune system, joint strength, strength, muscular growth, and recovery. When he powerlifts his routine is short, he doesn’t do nearly as many lifts, and since he requires less glycogen he can get much better strength gains. Any successful bodybuilder should probably be able to lift atleast 80% of their 1 rep max for their bodybuilding routine. The top bodybuilders have always been considered extremely strong though they usually don’t do their 1 rep maxes, they do sets of 10-12 rep maxes which are in the 80% of 1 rep max range. If someone’s 1 rep max is 600, their 80% would be 480 pounds and they could get that weight 8-12 times in a set. As far as powerlifters being able to lift more in bodyweight ratios, that’s because they don’t build the Type IIA muscle fibers. Those muscle fibers give you extra size, whereas the Type IIB gives you the explosive 1 rep strength. If they built that extra size they would lose their competitions and be about equal to hardcore bodybuilders. Scott Abel would have to downplay his strength because at his competition weight of 265 pounds, 5’9″, he’d have to be extremely strong, stronger than Arnold who could rep the 500 pound bench press at competition weight of 250 pounds, 6’2″. Scott likely practiced at 33-60-80% of his 1 rep max, and never went 90-100%. I think someone’s genetic limitations are based on their height and build moreso than being born with a certain number of fast twitch muscle fibers. If you started to lift with a lean body mass of 120 pounds you may only be able to get up to 165 pounds of lean bodymass max. It’s my theory that every individual can possibly put on 45 pounds of muscle after 4-10 years of bodybuilding. To be more correct people are born with the genetics to acquire only so much lean body mass, and they can only get up to a certain size before they start lifting for hypertrophy. Our builds can limit our strength gains, such as having long arms so can’t lift as much, smaller hips, smaller legs, and smaller shoulder length.
    An example of somebody that has better proportions outside of their bodybuilding career is Jamie Eason. It looked like she didn’t eat as much and so her muscles were smaller and her proportions aren’t as good as when she modeled. I personally think she could build the best physique of any female bodybuilder, and is the most beautiful supermodel ever. I’m talking about in comparison to the good looking beautiful female bodybuilders, not the ones with the guy bodies. Too bad I can’t find any pictures of a quality female bodybuilder on google, there’s lots of them but I can’t find them at the moment. When I do a google search the women that look like they have guy’s bodies show up. I’ve seen a couple of the good looking ones on facebook. Jamie was a good bodybuilder, but with her potential her physique could have looked much better to where she could be the best. I’ve seen pictures where women look more built and cut at 18% than others do at 6% or 12% bodyfat. It could be because they’ve built more muscle. If you want bigger biceps 24 rep max deadlifts made that region stronger for me.
    http://www.efitnessmodels.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/15784_JamieEasonNPCJrN200608.jpg
    http://www.efitnessmodels.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/15631_JamieEasonNPCJrN200603.jpg
    http://www.t-nation.com/img/photos/jamieEasonExperience/image004.jpg
    http://i2.listal.com/image/1700670/600full-jamie-eason.jpg
    http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lhem4lC5Xa1qhatv8o1_400.jpg
    http://hardgainerworkoutroutine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/jamie-eason-butt1.jpg

    Reply
  37. Eric,

    You should know that strength training alone does not equal size. Strength is just one version of your feedback….There is also speed, power, that gauge your progress. Everyone is limited to how strong they are and can become. Look at Jay Cutler vs. Ronnie Coleman. Ronnie is much stronger than Jay and trains much heavier, yet their physique’s are similar. Yes, you do need a weight that fatigue’s your muscle to see hypertrophy but this does not need to be a super heavy weight. It should be a weight that fatigue’s the desired muscle within your program rep range. Just training for strength will lead to muscle imbalances, injuries, and other problems. You must train in multiple plains using different techniques. Sometimes use a heavy weight, sometimes train for speed, power, etc… There is no Strength equals size cookie cutter formula. Another example would be Herschel Walker, who trains with mostly body weight exercises, and refused to train his legs with weights while in college. This is why most bodybuilders are not as strong(1 rep max) as powerlifters, yet have better physiques. Of course a bodybuilder should always be able to out train a powerlifter for reps in a controlled fashion. Because they have learn to recruit more muscle fibers over time through higher rep ranges with a weight that they can fatigue the muscle with.

    Reply
    • Great comment AK. I remember that about Hershel Walker and his daily 1,000 situps or whatever he used to do.

      Reply
  38. If increased strength were equated with increased muscle mass, then competitive Olympic Weightlifters would be in trouble. They have to train to lift more weight, year after year, but generally without increasing body weight in order to stay within their weight class (through years and from one Olympic games to another with four years between) to be increasingly competitive. Personally, I’d rather weigh a buck-fifty but lift like a gorilla without looking like one.

    Reply
    • Thanks Johnny. Our primate cousins are a good example that you don’t have to be big to be strong. An 150-pound ape is a hell of a lot stronger than your typical Buck Fiddy humanoid.

      Reply
  39. I think there is a lot of confusion arising from my comment…

    For instance, Johnny stated: “Increased strength doe not equate with increased muscle mass”.

    Contrary to what Johnny assumed I have indicated, nowhere have I made any claims of that sort. Otherwise, yes, as he pointed out, Olympic weightlifters (OWL) would, unanimously, tend to be the biggest athletes, although probably not as big as powerlifters, since the latter are more strength-based than OWL, whose sport is also much more skill-intensive. Again, there seems to be confusion with regards to “demonstration of strength” which is a skill, and “strength strictly speaking”. Again, nowhere did I say increased strength equaled increased muscle mass. In fact, I said the exact opposite: increased muscle mass, WITH EVERYTHING ELSE BEING EQUAL (which, in practice, is impossible but, just for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume it is…), will ALWAYS EQUATE TO INCREASED STRENGTH (but NOT necessarily the ability to DEMONSTRATE THIS STRENGTH). ALWAYS… Increasing a muscle’s cross-sectional area will make it stronger. Will it have the potential to demonstrate that strength in a skilled 1RM movement, that is another question, for which there are too many variables to take into consideration to come up with a clear answer.

    Then, with regards to AK’s comment… He said: “You should know that strength training alone does not equal size”.

    For some, it might, for others, it wouldn’t. It depends on a lot of factors.

    “There is also speed, power, that gauge your progress.”

    Speed has nothing to do with strength, nor strength with speed (assuming of course you are talking about speed of movement of a given limb within its range of motion, and not speed of displacement of whole body…) and power will increase as strength increases. I’m not sure I see what you are trying to say though… I’ll address the “power” issue later…

    “Everyone is limited to how strong they are and can become. Look at Jay Cutler vs. Ronnie Coleman. Ronnie is much stronger than Jay and trains much heavier, yet their physique[s] are similar.”

    That was my point exactly from above… Two people can use the same training, with different outcomes (because of genetic expression following a given stimulus). This would thus imply that two athletes can use different trainings, with similar outcomes (physique-wise that is, exactly as in your example). Again, I fail to see where this is different from what I said above.

    “Yes, you do need a weight that fatigue’s your muscle to see hypertrophy but this does not need to be a super heavy weight. It should be a weight that fatigue’s the desired muscle within your program rep range.”

    Sure… Never argued otherwise…

    “Just training for strength will lead to muscle imbalances, injuries, and other problems. You must train in multiple pla[nes] using different techniques. Sometimes use a heavy weight, sometimes train for speed, power, etc…”

    Training just for strength will never lead to injury. That is pure BS, I’m sorry. Training for strength improperly, meaning not allowing proper recovery; using loads that are too heavy and leading to yanking on the weights or improper form; using an inappropriate selection of exercises, meaning not balancing vertical pull with vertical push; using to high a volume or too high an intensity level, etc., THESE will lead to injury.

    Additionally, there is no such thing as training for speed or for power. Speed is a skill, developed on the field or court. And, for the record, power does not equal strength x speed, it actually equals work (force x displacement) divided by time. If you improve a person’s strength (force producing capacity) you will improve their ability to displace some mass (move their body to regain balance) in less time. Contrary to popular belief (damn I wish this myth would be put to rest once and for all!!!), you can get stronger using fast or slow speeds, but you’re much less likely to injure someone during exercise using slower reps. Especially considering that most athlete’s main activity already has its own inherent risks. Believe me when I tell you that competitive Olympic weightlifters do not practice explosive blocking, tackling or rebounding in order to better explode under the bar. Does that seem stupid to you? It is. An Olympic weightlifter would not accept the risk of injury and waste his time blocking, tackling or rebounding when he could be putting that time and risk into his chosen sport. He wouldn’t even do it in his “off-season.” Why take the risk and considerable time to perform the Olympic lifts and the various mutations (and I add to this list any speed lifting and most plyos) when you could put that exact same time into practice?

    Moving a weight quickly will not develop fast muscles. According to the size principle of muscle fiber recruitment, it is the “intent” to move a weight quickly that allows you to recruit the strongest, most powerful muscles fibers, not that the weight actually moves fast. BIG DIFFERENCE!!! In other words, it is the attempted maximum effort against a weight that has momentarily become virtually impossible to move that allows the nervous system to recruit and fire the most explosive muscle fibers.

    In fact, biomechanics experts who study movement measure speed in terms of degrees per second. They literally measure how fast the joint rotates. The standard repetition speed in a weight room would probably measure about 60 degrees per second. A 140 degree barbell curl, for example, would take a little over two second to complete the raising portion of the rep. The speed many people consider “fast” or “explosive” in the weight room would measure approximately 180 degrees per seconds. The same barbell curl performed at this speed would take about three-fourths of a second. Now, in competition, a fast athlete can rotate some joints well in excess of 1000 degrees per second. This is a factor five to ten times greater than the speed consider “fast” in the weight room. “Explosive” lifting is only “fast” relative to a controlled rep. Relative to the athletic field it is actually quite slow. So slow, in fact, that if you moved at that speed in competition you would lose every time.

    “Another example would be Herschel Walker, who trains with mostly body weight exercises, and refused to train his legs with weights while in college.”

    The mode of training (weights or no weights) says nothing of the results you can achieve. It is possible to achieve the same level of strength development using dumbbells and barbells, machines or nothing but one’s bodyweight. The latter simply implies that you will be using leverage as your friend (or enemy, depending on how you look at it) to increase the demands on your muscles. Nothing about bodyweight training makes it inherently better or worse for increasing muscle mass or strength. Progress is imply more difficult to gauge since instead of simply adding on pounds, you have to play around with leverage, which is harder to control as a variable.

    “This is why most bodybuilders are not as strong (1 rep max) as powerlifters, yet have better physiques. Of course a bodybuilder should always be able to out train a powerlifter for reps in a controlled fashion.”

    Powerlifters are stronger than bodybuilders, generally speaking only, simply because they are practicing, over and over, the skill of demonstrating their strength in very specific movements (the Big Three). Bodybuilders, because of their goals, will use many, many more exercises, which of course limits the potential (there are other reasons of course) for becoming more skilled at only a few movements.

    The principles of increasing strength or muscle mass are ridden in all kinds of myths and half truths. BUT, if one relies on very simple theories of motor learning, biomechanics and muscle physiology, it not only becomes much clearer but, one is then able to do without all the smoke screens and mirrors.

    And finally, Matt :) Our primate cousins are only that much stronger than us (strength to weight ratio that is) because ONE: their muscle bulk (so, back to that muscle mass thingie haha), relative to the rest of their body mass, is in fact much higher than us homo sapiens. In fact, in some muscle groups, the difference between chimps and humans can be twice as much muscle bulk, when accounting for limb length differences. TWO: chimp muscle fibers get recruited very fast and in unisson (an extreme version then of our “skilled 1RM strength athletes, if you will), creating very powerful muscle contractions, compared to our much more staggered firing of motoneurons (see “law of recruitement of muscle fibers” for further info…). Not only then is each motoneuron attached to many more muscle fibers but, they also contract much more “en masse”. The advantage of this, at least from our standpoint, it that it allows for more refined motor patterns. And, in times of need, it appears as if we are capable of extraordinary feats of strength. And, not just well-trained and well-skilled OWL, who learn, through practice, to contract more muscle fibers in unisson. Think, mother lifting a car off her kid when witnessing him being crushed under…

    Reply
  40. @dh…

    Yeah, I’d been meaning to comment on that too… Wonder if Lyle wishes that picture was never posted…

    Reply
  41. Strength doesn’t = muscle development

    Okay Matt, let me know your lean body mass when you can deadlift 600 pounds and squat 500 compared to what it is now.

    The guys pulling the heaviest weights are big. There are some genetic freaks out there but they are the exception, not the rule. There are also steroid users.

    I’d also be careful with using stats from people who have something to sell. I don’t know much about Martin but a lot of these folks with crazy results that are crazy lean year round use performance enhancers/steroids to boost their image to people looking to get results.

    The best rep ranges are between 5-10 for muscle development. Anything below that is too taxing on the CNS. You also need a caloric surplus for efficient muscle development. The 8 reps for best muscle growth thing is from bad science. Seriously, take a guy who when from 240lb deadlift to 400 using a 5 rep method to a guy who went from 200 to 350 with an 8 rep method. The both gained the same amount of body weight. They will both be bigger and you won’t notice the difference. You won’t.

    Reply
    • finally someone said it

      Reply
  42. I have read several good stuff here. Definitely value bookmarking for
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