Posts Tagged ‘training’

Anyone familiar with Layne Norton may have read some of his contest prep articles, as I have – and in fact I used some of his advice when preparing for more than one photo shoot.

Recently he unleashed an ebook which is extremely long and in depth, all about the process of preparing to go on stage in a physique competition, and even though I have no interest in stepping on stage it intrigued me.

First of all, I must say I highly appreciate the fact that when you go to his page (which I refuse to link) it is not one of those 10-zillion page long advertisement pages, it is simply a picture of the ebook and you can choose either the men’s or women’s version — although I’m almost certain they are the exact same book… because throughout the thing it gives advice for both men and women.

So while it was a far better buying experiences than most of the online sales experiences I have to admit that my first read through of the books ok left me annoyed.

Why? Because it is being pitched as a comprehensive 260 page book, which suggests there is a ton of information packed in there. However it could have easily been shaved down by a hundred pages or so.

The first 80-some pages were filled with very basic information about calorie balance… in other words stuff that anyone who is about to enter a show already knows.

The last section is all about poses, which is probably helpful to some people but let’s do a quick reality check… anyone who is serious about getting on stage will almost certainly need a coach, not a $40 ebook to learn this stuff. Having a coach for doing a show is also vital because you tend to be so depleted that it’s almost impossible to do everything with meal planning and creating an effective training program on your own.

Buuut – the book does an excellent job of laying out much of the detailed information a coach would normally be handling so it can be good educationally if you choose to work with a coach and if you choose not to, you’ll have a better idea of why you probably should be.

I actually see the book as more of a narrative in the life of a professional bodybuilder than an actual how-to guide.

There are millions of books that will help you get from bad to good in terms of physique improvement and I believe the goal of this book was to help people go from good to great. Does it succeed in that? Yes in a sense. Layne discusses much of the same topics that can be found in his pre-contest articles but in more depth in the latter parts of the book. He also talks about what to do after a show, which may be excellent for anyone on a restricted diet of any kind.

That being said, I would simply suggest that if you get the book you set your expectations appropriately; it is not likely to be 260 pages of NEW information, but a large dose of old information, some “nice to know” information and a little bit of advice that will very likely be valuable at some point in your life if you want to get ridiculously lean.


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!!!

I just finished a 6-week program focussing on shoulders and back and I have to say the results are pretty impressive. Here’s the video describing the program:


I did a 4-day split:

Delts & back (heavy)

Chest & biceps

Delts & back (high reps)

Legs & triceps

Every fourth week was a deload week where I would only do one delt/back day.

Chicken/rice/broccoli was a staple meal. 

Avoided saturated fat.

Always had a banana and then whey + greens post workout

Supplement with betaine – 1.25g pre-wo and 1.25g post wo

When Man of Steel hit the screen I wrote some of my most popular blogs:

  • Man of Steel: Building a physique like Henry Cavill’s Superman
  • Man of Steel Cannon Ball Shoulders
  • Building a Man of Steel Chest with “SUPER DROPS”

    Now That Batman V Superman is on the way I’ve taken it one step further by making an interactive video-based program, starting with: Man of Steel training program Part 1

  • There are so many things that can lead to frustrated and failed attempts and complicating that is that fact that everyone is so different, this list has helped me navigate through my own fat loss challenges and hopefully will for you as well.

    As someone who tends to be over-analytical but everything possible and yet notoriously “scatter-brained” I first made this list out of frustration when my bodyfat, specifically belly fat was not coming off.

    It’s broken into two phases, and there is definitely some cross-over, but this is written in the order I think best to address. There’s no sense trying to boost testosterone if you’re eating too much.

    Beside each point is ideas to accomplish/overcome these.

    Before listing the reasons, a good first step if you are in the boat of feeling frustrated over lack of results is to ensure you are measuring accurately. I’ve had it happen where my weight went up while fat percent went down so the scale itself can be misleading.

    PHASE 1:

    1. caloric deficit – on the simplest level there has to be a caloric deficit to burn fat. If it is too drastic you will also burn muscle, so it should be a moderate daily deficit. Log everything you eat. The typical human typically misjudges their food intake by about 1,000 kcal when guessing.

    2. training intensity – resistance training builds muscle – aka your biggest fat burning mechanism. It positively affects anabolic hormones, provides energy and burns fat.

    Bonus 1: In addition, if you’re not doing this already add in 2-3 sessions of HIIT cardio, and increase the intensity of any other cardio you do.

    3. protein intake – there are several reasons why this macronutrients is important, so with your daily food tracking ensure you get 1g of protein per – this is probably higher than needed but it’s better to have a little too much than too little.

    4. water – being terrible at getting enough water myself I’ve begun logging my water intake as well. Water helps several body functions. One study suggested that drinking cold water burns more calories, while I’m not sure if it’s been validated it seems to make sense.

    5. fiber – I think this may be one of the least appreciated foods, but it becomes highly important as it helps with digestion, insulin resistance and makes you feel full.

    6. Healthy fat intake – this is also something I log. The ideal amount of fat is around 20-30% of your daily caloric intake.

    Bonus 2: Consider Food allergies and intolerances.

    7. sleep – quality sleep is where we recover and where our fat burning hormones really come into full flight.

    Phase 2:

    8. growth hormone – this intriguing little hormone is extremely potent when it comes to burning fat and preserving lean tissue. Good sleep will help with this as will exercise. To get the most out of it try to prime it prior to exercise by steering clear of carbohydrates for three hours prior to working out. Melatonin before sleep may help as well.

    9. adrenal fatigue – one very common problem when struggling to lose fat is that our adrenal glands become fatigued. This often happens due to the use of stimulants. If burning fat is truly important to you try cycling off ALL stimulants. No coffee, nothing. It sucks. I’ve done it. The first day or two are tough but following that (if this is the issue) fat starts pouring off like never before. If feels great in the long-term. You can also help adrenal health by increasing vitamin C and magnesium.

    10. Leptin – I’ve got leptin pretty high on the hormone list because it has an effect on virtually all of the hormones below including the thyroid. Low leptin levels cause the body to hold onto fat and catabolize muscle. It also causes hunger. Solving this one is multi-faceted… The main way is by incorporating refeed days. But sleep deprivation and poor diet can also negatively affect leptin. What makes this tricky is that the leaner you get the lower leptin levels are making your refeed days all the more important as you progress.

    11. cortisol – this guy, the “stress” hormone is a tricky but important one to consider. While it does have benefits to our survival (like all hormones) when out of control can keep us from burning fat. To help with this ensure good sleep, make training sessions shorter but more intense, increase magnesium and vitamin C, and perhaps consider an adaptogen (such as rhodiola rosea) post workout to restore levels.

    12. insulin resistance – insulin is a powerful hormone that helps build muscle and also “builds” fat. The ideal scenario is to have high insulin level while your body is in muscle-building mode but more normalized levels the rest of the time. The best way to do this is to eliminate sugary food from your diet, but if you’ve gotten this far in the list you’ve probably done that already. I’ve tried using such insulin mimicking supplements as R-Ala, taurine, cinnamon and garcinia combogia alone and in combination and I’m not convinced that the effect was measurable. What I have found to be useful is increasing omega 3 oils (I always use the capsules, preferably krill), and I also found that pushing off my first meal of the day seemed to help.

    13. estrogen – the female sex hormone is another one that is correlated with fat gain. This bugger can get you a number of ways, so if you suspect it is an issue here’s what I’d do– first of all duck the urge to by a fancy (expensive) supplement. If you want to supplement for this look at DIM and calcium d-glucorate. Eat broccoli every day. Switch to using natural soap and shampoo, organic foods, and don’t use plastic dishware as well to reduce environmental estrogens.

    14. testosterone – this one is also fascinating because it ties in closely with cortisol and estrogen. To help support the mighty test you want to ensure your body as a whole is operating optimally, so you must eat well and could do with a good multivitamin. In addition, omega-3 and vitamin D3 support it (due to vit D being fat soluble I take them together). Also to help with test make your weight training sessions hard, intense but not too long.

    15. thyroid – the thyroid is always the last one I look to because it seems that beyond what’s listed above there’s not a lot of practical solutions. It also tends to be ineffective on low carb diets making carb re-feed days all the more important on a diet. Another thing that may help is adding nuts as a snack once a day – Brazil nuts specifically may be beneficial here.

    Bonus 3…

    16. A Need! – the more reasons you have to lose weight the more successful you will beat what I previously called the Enemies of Fat Burning. Personally I’ve had to dig really deep to find meaningful reasons. This is done by asking nested “why”s; ask yourself “Why do I need to burn fat?” and when you have an answer again ask “why?”, continue as much as five times.

    There you have it folks, hope you enjoyed!

    As a kid I loved Tarzan, even though my main source of exposure was audio stories on vinal – which were recorded versions of the 1966 show starring Ron Ely. When Casper Van Dien played the role in the 1998 I wanted so badly to love it despite it being pretty awful.

    Now a new version is coming out starring Alexander Skarsgard (and my mistress-to-be Margot Robbie) and if you’ve seen the trailers for The Legend of Tarzan – whether you think it looks visually stunning or narratively stupid, no one can deny that the dude is peeled!

    Skarsgård’s physique is either inspirational to those who enjoy getting fit or maddening to those who don’t know how to. Before I get into some specifics on how to train and eat for this let me point something that the cinema hides: people “peak” for very short periods of time.

    A perfect example of this is the movie Man of Steel where the production schedule was coordinated with Henry Cavil’s trainer to get him to peak for the one shirtless scene.

    Fitness models and bodybuilders have the same challenge, to get into their peak condition for stage time. 

    So it is an unrealistic expectation to think anyone walks around like this 24:7, but working towards this type of shape we can certainly stand apart from the crowd.

    Alexander is tall and lanky, which leads me to suspect he is a stereotypical ectomorph. While he was fit before this film, his challenge was probably putting on muscle more than it was getting lean.

    Because of this his specific training was probably hypertrophy-based. There are bound to be magazines popping up with “Tarzan training” designed as all-in-one programs, but while such stories (strong emphasis on the word “stories”) may be entertaining they are not likely to be practical for most people.

    For most people on the earth what I’m about to suggest will get you much closer. It’s a 2-phase regime, first getting buff and leans and then getting scorched.


    In phase 1 we need to lay the foundation and get into great shape. This requires dedication and mental resilience. It’s about building and toning muscle while dramatically singeing body fat.

    I’ve had a number of “false starts” through the years so here are the ways I’ve found to overcome those…

    Probably the most important is a shift in mindset. I will say this again but the most powerful mental switch you can make is changing “I want” or “I should” into “I must”. This has helped me in every aspect of my life.

    With a new-found commitment to getting into ridiculous shape, here’s how to begin phase 1:

    Day 1: gorge! Shop! Read! Goals! Spend $!

    The day 1 feast is as vital as it is enjoyable. If you have been a yo-yo dieter in the past there’s a good chance your metabolism is slowed down so this will help kick start your engine. It is also a good way to remind yourself that junk food is not as good as your brain wants you to think. Mentally it tells you that this journey is about enjoyment and pride, not self deprivation.

    Make sure to stock up on healthy food that you will be using to fuel your transformation.

    Read and/or re-read good material to help inspire you and remind you of key principles. Suggestions are “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle” by Tom Venuto, or check out “SuperHero Physique” which was designed to be motivational as well as educational. Even “Body-For-Life” has a few good nuggets. You can always click on my Fat Burning blogs for tons of material.

    Set your goals. What I suggest initially is to take your current measuring stick and use that. For example if you just think you look out of shape something like “I must get a six pack” – write it down because we’re going to come back to it.

    Spend a little money. Invest in yourself. This could mean buying a treat at the supplement shop, ordering a fitness book, etc, it really doesn’t matter. The fact that you are putting cash into this tells your mind that you are commuted and stand to lose if you don’t see it through.
    Day 2: Measure! Refine goals! train favorite part! Log your food!

    Begin day two by measuring your weight and body composition. Also take a picture. This is not fun but remind yourself that this is going to be the worst measurements and it’s only going to get better from here on.

    Using your measurements refine your written goal. For example having a six pack might now mean burning 30 lbs of fat. As a measurable amount you can now track your progress.

    Start of your training program with your favorite body part/parts. For example I generally begin with chest and biceps or shoulders. Make sure to log your training (I use the free app Pump-N-Log). I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the actual training shortly…

    Begin the habit of logging what you eat. As with training I’ll get into the details shortly but the most important thing you can do is log your food with either an app, a book (such as Buffer’s training and diet log) or a spreadsheet.

    Day 7: measure and adjust

    Take your measurements again after a week. Pictures are usually best every two weeks. Based on your results make adjustments to your diet. Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged. Tell yourself “I must see this through”. There are bound to be ups and downs along the way, so use this as a tool not an excuse to quit.

    This phase is a typical program I run for 6-12 weeks.


    Simply put, the best training here is a 3-4 day split using a rep-range of 8-12 to failure.

    Here is a good example of such a workout:

    Day 1 – chest & biceps

    • Barbell Bench press – 4 sets x 8 reps
    • Incline dumbbell press – 4×8
    • Ez bar curls (wrists supinated) – 4×8
    • Cable crossovers – 3×10
    • Alternating dumbbell curls – 3×10

    Finish with 10-20 minutes of cardio.

    Day 2 – back & hams

    • Straight-arm pull downs – 4×10 (plus drops after last set)
    • Lying leg curl – 6×6 (partials after each set)
    • Barbell or cable rows – 4×8
    • Stiff-leg deadlift – 3×10,8,6

    Finish with HIIT cardio

    Day 3 – Quads & Calves

    • Barbell squats – 8×8
    • Leg extension 3×12
    • Seated calf raises 100 reps in as short a time as possible 

    10-20 min cardio

    Day 4 – delts and triceps

    • 3-way delts raise – 3×10
    • Cable press down – 4×8
    • Seated barbell military press 3×6 – super set with
    • Dumbbell laterals – 3×8
    • Overhead dumbell triceps extensions – 3×10
    • Rear delt bent dumbbell laterals – 3×10 superset with
    • Dumbbell upright rows – 3×8

    HIIT cardio.

    What to eat is a huge thing here. The main thing is to eat enough good food to keep you metabolism running well.

    The most effective strategy still is to follow these guidelines:

    • Keep calories around 85% of maintenance for 3 days then have one re-feed day every forth day at about 110%
    • Have 6 meals per day ensuring protein with each meal
    • Drink a cup of water every waking hour
    • Keep carbs clean; avoid carbs pre-workout and first thing in the morning
    • Include omega-3 fat sources
    • Have lots of vegetables

    PHASE 1 supplements:

    The main purpose of sups here is to fill in gaps of your diet. So protein powder, greens powder, multivitamins and omega 3 fish oil are awesome for this.

    Despite the speculation around whether krill oil is worth the added cost I’m a huge advocate of it. I’ve found it significantly helps with inflammation in my shoulders and absolutely no fish burps unlike other fish oils. I also suspect that it is superior for insulin sensitivity based on my personal resultsof lowering belly fat but I have no concrete evidence to support that at this time.

    Since this article is getting a tad long I’m going to give you Phase 2 or “the grand finale” in my next post. Phase 2 is where we will go from a great physiqu to an “elite” physique!

    PHASE 2 – coming soon


    Super Hero Physique

    I recently heard an advertisement on the radio for a gym that went something like this: “sign up with us and lose 20lbs in 20 days”.

    Now this is clearly marketing hype – anyone vaguely familiar with the human body knows that it is virtually impossible to burn a pound a day in fat (naturally) — so even if this gym could live up to its claim a good portion of that weight would likely be retained water.

    Nevertheless it seemed like an interesting challenge to see how much FAT I could burn in the next twenty days putting into practice the principles I’ve picked up over the years.

    I want to extend the challenge to anyone who reads this post as well. 

    Now with all challenges must come incentive! I’m not set up to offer huge monetary rewards, but it occurred to me that I do have something very cool to offer those who complete the challenge: their before-and-after photos on the cover of my book (Superhero Physique).
    Please go ahead and invite any of your friends who are looking to kickstart their summer fat loss.

    So as a “challenge” I suppose I’d better lay down some ground rules…

    1. By submitting photos you consent to owning the rights to the photos and grant permission for them to appear on the cover of SuperHero Physique
    2. Before photos will be taken on the first day of your 20 fat burn and after photos will be taken no more than 21 days after the “before pictures”
    3. Diet, training and cardio routines can be done using ANY program you like but you are encouraged to log it as I may want to interview you ;)… you can download free diet and training logs here if you want: – also feel free to make use of any of the tricks in the Transformation Secrets document
    4. Once 20 days are completed submit your photos via the buff-N-toned Facebook page

    That’s it! Let cook some fat together!!!

    If you’re looking for more guidance on burning fat, here are some articles you should check out:

    5 factors of FAT LOSS
    Fighting Fat the Hormonal Way
    Getting your body Beach Ready (6 tips)
    How to shed those final, frustrating pounds
    Fat Burning archive