Posts Tagged ‘bodybuilding’

I’ve been working on this for quite a while, so hopefully there is some value here for you…

I can’t put my finger on exactly what sparked this line of thinking, but I recall having an “aha” moment when comparing muscle function to our conception of superheroes.

Muscles have many evolutionary functions, we can think of tribal cavemen who had to survive harsh elements including competing with their own kind in order to mate.

Specifically these functions are: power, speed and size

These three functions also happen to be what we attribute to modern-day heroes both in real life and to exaggerated extents in fiction.

Size may stand out a little bit because it doesn’t actually seem on the surface to be a true function, but the more we consider it the more we may value it’s purpose. Consider the muscularly huge people we see – they immediately earn respect. Their size also tells others they are not to be messed with. Furthermore their size seems to correlate to their own confidence which compounds their capability.

A case could be made that balance contributes to this as well… but to be perfectly honest I could not think of a way to attribute balance to superheroes. Still combining balance and strength training seems to have a harmonious effect – making such movements as split squats one of my personal favourites of late.

So if your goal is to create a training program that helps achieve that superhero persona, we ought to consider designing the program to develop these three functions.

Let’s look at what seems to develop them individually:


Here we look to the world of power and strength trainers. These people are known to lift tremendous amount of weight, but in small bursts. This is where progressing with heavier weights using small repetitions seems to be most beneficial.


When I think of speed in mere mortals I usually visualize martial artists. Not only do those committed to martial arts tend to be fast, they also tend to have efficient physiques – meaning lean and toned.

But between working full-time, being a full-time single dad and everything else in my busy life, I simply haven’t had the time to commit to martial arts training, never mind the costs that seem to be skyrocketing in proportion to the rising popularity of MMA.

So it has had me looking for other ways to develop speed. Here is what I’ve found…

Explosive concentric (positive) movements appear to help this area, which can fortunately be trained to a certain extent while performing strength training.

Incorporating such things as box jumps and HIIT sprints/upright bike into your routine also seem to be effective. Just look at the massive quads on Olympic sprinters if you want more evidence.


This is an interesting one, because it isn’t strictly about being huge, it’s about LOOKING huge. That is what I’ve heard described as the illusion of size. Basically it amounts to being both muscular and lean enough for the muscularity to look even larger. Basically what we’re looking at training like here is bodybuilding style volume, but we also want to add in a level of metabolic training to use stored fat as fuel. For that I find antagonistic supersets to be best.

So in an attempt to train all these areas within one program, this is what I came up with…

Note: whenever possible use explosive concentrics and controlled negatives

Day 1: Chest and back (rows)

Bench press superset with 1-arm dumbbell rows; 8 sets; reps = 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 15

Cable crossover superset with seated cable row: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Incline dumbbell press superset with barbell rows: 4 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 2: Legs

Leg extension superset with lying leg curls; 8 sets; reps = 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 15

Squats superset with box jumps; 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Bulgarian split squats superset with 1-leg stiff-legged dumbbell deadlifts: 4 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 3: back (lats) and shoulders

Dumbbell shoulder press superset with wide-grip pulldowns; 8 sets; reps = 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 15

Dumbbell laterals superset with reverse-grip close-grip pulldowns: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Dumbbell upright rows superset with bent-over dumbbell laterals: 4 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 4: arms

Seated dumbbell curls superset with overhead dumbbell extensions; 8 sets; reps = 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 15

Dumbbell hammer curls superset with cable press downs: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Ez curls superset with skull crushers: 4 sets of 6-10 reps

To make this even more effective at least metabolically, try incorporating density something like this:

Week 1: 60 seconds rest between supersets

Week 2: 45 seconds rest between supersets

Week 3: 30 seconds rest between supersets

Week 4: 45 seconds rest between supersets

Week 5: 30 seconds rest between supersets

Week 6: 15seconds rest between supersets

Week 7: 45 seconds rest between supersets


Obviously what you eat will make a huge difference and what I’ve found to be most effective, practical and sustainable in terms of maximizing body composition is the idea of carb backloading.

In short you eat protein, fat and veggies in the early part of the day and save your carbs for the last meal or two.

If this sounds like a weird concept, you are probably used to the notion of eating your carbs early in the day and tapering then off. The mentality behind this was that you would give yourself energy in the early parts of the day and reduce them while your metabolism is slowing down.

While that does seem to make sense on the surface, if we try to think about it from another angle the picture will look a little different.

Reason number one to avoid early carbs: at the start of the day we don’t “need” extra energy. In fact if your body determines it needs extra energy, in the absence of carbs it will take the energy from stored fat – which is what we want!!

Reason number two: our brains send different kind of messages depending on the present food sources. Protein and fats send messages (neurotransmitters) that are energizing and motivating, while carbs tend to be more relaxing and feel-good. This makes it clear that we want the protein and fats early and carbs later on.

Give this puppy a 6-week run and let me know how it works for you!!!


A few weeks ago I had this crazy idea of how to train chest as seen in this video (2.33 min in):

So like I mentioned in the video, simply by playing around I speculated upon the best way to activate the pectorals… then a friend pointed me to this study: Electromyographical Activity of the Pectoralis Muscle During Incline and Decline Bench Presses from The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The bottom line of this study being that the decline bench press (especially the negative part of the movement) recruits far more muscle than the incline press.

The two takeaways for me here are firstly to continue using the decline movement and others that utilize this range of motion, and secondly the benefits of consciously considering the desired range of motion and angle when determining movements for ALL body parts!

If you’ve come for a REAL review of Todd Lamb’s SpecForce that isn’t one of those BS sponsored links – the ones that only tell you what the program creator wants you to hear… you’ve come to the right place.

As you probably know from my other program reviews, I don’t give good reviews where they are not earned; so let’s get down to it…

The idea of the program is that you are attempting to naturally utilize hormones to your bodybuilding advantage. This is nothing new to anyone who has read into the subject of bodybuilding. The program also heavily incorporates bodyweight exercises, which are also nothing new and appear in such programs as Convict Conditioning or even P-90x

Quite frankly I don’t understand the thought process as the majority of people who want to get big and strong have no problem going to the gym anyway for a number of reasons.

The other thing I find curious about the marketing of this was the whole “Man up and buy the program” model they attempt to use here. I’m not sure if the marketing team is trying to insult our intelligence or belittle us into wanting to buy it, but either way I think they’re taking the military aspect a little bit too far.

So those gripes really just have me scratching my head about who would pick this up in the first place, but if you are here you are probably considering it, so now I’ll go onto the program specifics. 

 The price tag is not too bad at $37 ($50 CAD), and thankfully there aren’t any of those annoying optional “add-ons” so that is a big thumbs up!

While the program is fairly well put together, I honestly don’t see myself using it. The mobile app is perhaps the most useful component (to me at least). As usual in these programs the “bonus” items are pretty much useless.

I’m sure if you were to follow the program to the letter you would have good results, so I can’t fault it in that regard, however I didn’t really care for Todd Lamb as a trainer and don’t find this program to be anything revolutionary.

So despite it’s attempt at slick marketing I can’t recommend the program.


SuperHero Physique
superhero_physique by Shawn Buffington

S.O.A. – a hilarious new web series


By the time most people get to the point that their physique stands out in the crowd, they have usually tried just about every method of training out there and spent years doing a variety of programs (this is especially true when it is done naturally).

This is why seeking out the biggest guy in the gym is not necessarily the best way to find out how to get the most out of your training, and where scientific studies can come in handy.

I’ll direct you to an especially good scientific paper called The mechanisms of hypertrophy by Brad Schoenfeld.

In practical terms this paper suggests the following things are responsible for muscle hypertrophy:

Muscle damage – accomplished by training within 6-12 rep range (as heavier loads tend to recruit the CNS and lower loads tend to be too light to elicit a growth response. This rep range also tends to recruit the largest range of muscle fibers.

Metabolic stress – accomplished by gradually increasing volume (sets x reps x load) for a few weeks until the point where you are close to overstrained then back of to de-load and hyper-compensate.

Hormonal response – accomplished by intense training and dietary protocols (ie. avoid carbs pre workout as they blunt GH but take then post workout with protein for insulin spike).

Practical application: this is just one example of many excellent papers out there, bur here is how I would put the information in it to use:
For 3-weeks do a split routine of your choice focusing on a combination of compound and isolation movements in the 6-12 rep range. Avoid carbohydrates 3 hours prior to training and take high glycemic carbs with fast digesting protein immediately post workout. Each week increase the volume one or more of the following ways: heavier weights, less rest between sets, add sets. On the fourth week lower the volume to about what it was on week 1.

Stimulating Muscle Growth in Multiple Ways

How to get the most out of your training and diet

Super Hero Physique
superhero_physique by Shawn Buffington


By now you surely know I am an advocate of lifting with proper form for a full range of motion to build muscle.

You also know I’m a fan of using intensifiers to push yourself even farther – one of those being partial reps at the end of a set.

I’ve tried things like Pete Cisco’s programs where the entire routine is based on heavy weights for a small range of motion and found hat to be ineffective.

I have recently found a different way to use heavy partials that seems to be a lot more effective for both size and strength.

The idea is this: take a weight you would normally use for 8-10 reps and add about 20%. Perform 8 reps. The first 2-3 reps should be the full range of motion. As you go on through the set the range will become smaller, but still maintain the tension. Do this for 2-3 sets of an exercise fairly early (2nd or 3rd) in your routine.

The next week attempt to use a full range of motion for more reps than you did before using the same weight.

This can only safely and effectively be done using isolation movements…

  • For shoulders it might be dumbbell laterals
  • For chest machine or cable flyes
  • For back wide-grip pulldowns
  • For legs leg curls
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    Combining Intensifiers for HUGE gains!

    3 keys to massive muscles

    Superhero Physique
    superhero_physique by Shawn Buffington

    Dr Jacob Wilson recently posted an amazing article here, which discusses some of the same things I write about frequently. We only differ in opinion in one area, which I’ll mention in a moment. Today I’m just going to provide my own slant on this excellent information.

    In order to stimulate growth a few factors appear to come into play and they are each accomplished in different ways:

    Muscle cell swelling: this is accomplished by moderate weights (8-12 reps) and relatively short rest periods.

    Large muscle fiber damage: this is created by lifting heavy weights (4-6 reps) with longer rest periods. It also seems to be accomplished using slow negatives on your repetitions.

    Lactic acid build-up: this is done via higher reps(usually 15 or more) supersets, very low rest periods or even occlusion training. This is where you go for an intense burn.

    All of these are very different protocols, so how do we do all of them? Wilson does not specify how in this article aside from using the word “periodize“. Knowing that he has an involvement with Ben Palulski who recently has been selling a program based on periodization (changing modalities every 4 weeks) I am leery of his intent. As mentioned in other articles, I’ve found it is far more effective to train with as many of these protocols as possible all of the time, just alter your program depending on your primary goal. He does make a good point that if you lift heavy all of the time it will eventually take it’s toll on your joints which is another reason to spend periods of time where strength training is done less if not altogether excluded.

    Another important thing Wilson mentions is that strict attention to every detail including rest, every rep and everything you put in your mouth is required in order to accomplish the goal of being both big and lean.

    One final point I want to touch on is the idea of changing up the actual exercises/movements you do. Changing up exercises can be good from a psychological standpoint as well as varying the angles you train as well as initiating adaptation but at the same time if you are always changing it up you will not be creating enough of a regular muscular trauma for it to adapt. It would seem that the body can handle one or two “stresses” without necessarily adapting in a noticeable way.

    Personally I find 2 methods work best:

    1. Run a single program for 4-6 weeks then change up the ratio of strength, hypertrophy and lactic acid training **as an aside I don’t think it is a coincidence that 3-4 sets of an exercise has been shown to be most effective and so it is that at least 3-4 weeks on a program seems to be needed to adapt.

    2. Alternate each week back and forth between 2 programs. This can be extended a little longer than the first way.

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    Super Hero Physique
    superhero_physique by Shawn Buffington


    It is a little sad to see all the people who go to the gym day-in and day-out but never improve their physique. In some cases, just by looking at them, you would be shocked to learn that they exercise at all.

    I actually respect these people a lot because it shows they have determination, just perhaps aren’t executing their diet or training efficiently — likely due to lack of knowing what to do.

    If you or someone you know falls into this category, here are some of the things I’ve found can help make our efforts more productive:

    Try to get the most out of these three areas: mental programming, diet and training.

    Mental Programming

    You will be amazed by the power of your subconscious mind if you allow it to work for you. It has been proven throughout history that your outcome will be largely dependent on your subconscious limitations. So we must actively set goals and affirm to ourselves that we can accomplish those goals. Brian Tracey (among others) has some great techniques for this, also be sure to check out these articles: The Key to Success and Putting the “Progress” into Progressive Overload


    When you have a physical goal, you diet must support that goal. This is basically a 24/7 challenge which is why it is one of the areas that holds people back the most. If this is you, the best advice I can give is to log everything you eat troughs the day, then use this logging to adjust your diet to match your goals. I’ve seen nearly miraculous results from this in myself and my clients. I’ve made a book full of diet and training logging that ha become a staple for many people, which I’m selling at cost to my readers: Buffer’s complete diet and training log

    Keep following my blog for ongoing dietary tips. Here are some good articles to take a look at: Eating like a bodybuilder and 5 factors of FAT LOSS


    A lot of people’s training is a huge mess whether it is their training split, lifting too heavy or too light or simply using crappy and ineffective form or movements.

    First and foremost for effective weight training is to do the lifts properly in terms of form and range of motion; to help with this I will post videos in the coning weeks.

    Exercise selection is the next step because you want to ensure the movements you are doing will stimulate the muscles effectively. The “big three” (bench press, squats and deadlifts) are a good starting point, as well as some complimenting isolation movements.

    Once you are doing movements properly you want to ensure you are lifting appropriate weights. Every working set should be done to the pout of failure meaning that you cannot complete another single rep with proper form. For hypertrophy (muscle growth) you generally want to reach failure around 8-12 PERFECT REPS. ** link

    The next thing to consider is your training split. The first step in creating your split is to determine how frequently you will train. In general the heavier you lift the more recuperation time you need. Here are a couple splits that you can consider:

    Two-day split:
    Day 1: upper body
    Day 2: lower body

    Three-day split:
    Day 1: upper body push (chest, shoulders, triceps)
    Day 2: legs
    Day 3: upper body pull (back, biceps)

    Four-day split:
    Day 1: chest & biceps
    Day 2: quads & calves
    Day 3: shoulders & triceps
    Day 4: back & hamstrings

    Five-day split:
    Day 1: chest
    Day 2: legs
    Day3: back
    Day 4: shoulders
    Day 5: arms

    These are just a few examples you can use, and the more practice you get the more creative you can be with the combinations to adjust them to your needs.

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    Related Articles:

    Mass Method Part 1: Training

    3 keys to Massive Muscles

    Super Hero Physique
    superhero_physique by Shawn Buffington