September, 2010 | Critical Bench

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Review of Nick Nilsson’s Mad Scientist Muscle

September 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Recent Posts, Reviews

by Mike Westerdal

Author Nick Nilsson

Author Nick Nilsson

Nick Nilsson is an experienced weight lifter with a degree in physical education and psychology. He’s also a personal trainer and an author, having written three different books on the topic of weight training. I recently had the opportunity to review his work Mad Scientist Muscle: Build monster mass with science-based training.

Wow, Nick has really taken the time to put together a complete program. This isn’t some hastily-thrown together work by someone who is out to make a quick buck. Nope. This is a well-done work put together by someone who really knows his stuff. Let’s take a look.

The Mad Scientist program is based on two principles:

1) Planned overtraining and rebound; and

2) Training to change your physiology to better support muscle growth.

The first principle has actually been around for a quite awhile, but you may know it under another name—Accumulation and Intensification.

The second principle addresses the body’s physiology. There are some things you can’t really change—like your basic genetic and hormonal makeup—but some things you can. There are also things that while you can’t change them, you certainly can influence them for your benefit. This principle helps you to identify and influence all the factors in your training that can actually change your base physiology to make it more favorable to muscle growth.

The Mad Scientist approach includes three elements: the program; exercise and nutrition. The program itself is the entire training system and the four two-month cycles that comprise it. The first cycle focuses on time/volume training, the second cycle focuses on cluster training, the third cycle is focused on rest-pause training and the fourth cycle is for advanced trainers only and is known as the “Frankenstein” cycle.

The exercise component is of course the training techniques for building muscle and lastly, the nutrition component lays out the nutritional roadmap for ‘eating for mass.’

The first section of the book provides information about the different approaches to exercises that Nick uses in the Mad Scientist program. Basically what he does in this part of the book is to explain in detail 13 different approaches to exercise that make up the Mad Scientist approach.

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For example, he opens with a discussion about how you can use controlled overtraining to your advantage by pushing yourself just to point of approaching overtraining and then switching to an intensification period where you back off. As you go through these sections it becomes apparent that Nick has spent a lot of time researching the techniques and strategies he’s presenting. What you get with each section is a description of the philosophy, the training techniques it embodies, the how and why of the approach and benefits you can expect from using it.

The next section of the book is all about nutrition. He starts this section off with his three basic rules for eating for mass:

1) eat plenty of calories;
2) eat plenty of protein; and
3) eat good quality food and drink a lot of water.

The nutrition part of the book is broken down into nine different sections: meal plans; caloric intake; frequently asked questions about protein; meal timing; low carb eating option; supplements; pre- and post-workout nutrition; Nick’s ‘Lazy Cook’ muscle-building recipes; and eating clean.

In the next section of the book Nick provides the details about each cycle of the program. During each week, you spend four days training with the remaining days being open for rest or for cardio. For these sections charts lay out the body parts, the exercises, the proper number of sets and reps as well as some notes from Nick for each one. The format is basically the same until you get to the “Frankenstein” section, where—if you can handle it—you begin really intense workouts six days a week. This entire part of the books is a couple hundred pages long, so believe me you won’t be getting bored any time soon.

mad-scientist2501For the very last section of the book, Nick closes with a very handy ‘carb counter’ for all kinds of different foods, snacks, beverages and even alcoholic beverages. It’s really very handy. It includes most common foods and beverages you’re likely to run across and provides information about serving size, the amount of carbohydrates and the amount of dietary fiber in each.

I can say that I really like the ideas and concepts Nick presents in Mad Scientist Muscle. It’s apparent that he’s a smart guy who not only knows what he’s talking about, but he’s also able to present the information in an engaging, easy-to-follow format that allows anyone who has got the willingness, guts and discipline to follow through with his suggestions, to achieve amazing results.

If you think Nick is a genetic freak check out some pics from his site where you can see that he has come a long way having gained more than 75 lbs of muscle. It’s a funny story actually, you should check it out over at http://www.madscientistmuscles.com

Training Principle: Accumulation and Intensification

September 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Recent Posts, Training

by Mike Westerdal

back2We all know what overtraining is and how it should be avoided at all costs, right? Overtraining can result in the loss of strength and muscle mass accompanied by increased risk of injury. Even more, it often includes emotional symptoms similar to depression and can really just wreak havoc on the body’s immune system. This is all pretty serious stuff and no laughing matter—breaking out of an overtraining period can be really tough sometimes.

But what about ‘controlled’ overtraining? What if we could take ourselves right to the ‘edge’ of overtraining and then introduce something new to prevent us from actually reaching the point of overtraining?

Well I can tell you that such an animal exists and it’s called Accumulation and Intensification. Essentially, this is another way of saying “controlled overtraining.” The basic idea is that you gradually build up your training volume while decreasing rest periods until you hit overtraining. This high level of training (right before overtraining) is where FAST results can be achieved. When you hit this level, you then switch up to low-volume, longer rest-period training, which can dramatically increase strength as your body recovers from the higher-volume training. It’s a killer framework that has been proven effective by top-level coaches and trainers for years. Let’s take a closer look.

The approach has been around for a very long time and has been used by some well-known bodybuilding names including Charlies Poliquin and Charlie Francis. It was also very popular among the world famous bodybuilding coaches in the former Eastern Bloc nations. There has also been quite a lot of research done on this approach so there’s some sound science behind it.

The entire approach is really pretty simple—for several weeks you pump up your workload by increasing your training volume while decreasing your rest period between sets almost until you get to the point of overtraining. This is what’s known as the ‘accumulation’ phase—you’re increasing the demand on your body every day.

nick1Once you get to the point of overtraining, it’s time to back off by reducing the training volume and increasing the rest periods between sets. While you’re doing this, you also start using heavier weights. This is the ‘intensification’ part of the approach. The purpose of the intensification component is to move you towards ‘under training.’ This under training phase allows your body to fully recover from the accumulation and intensification phases before you kick it back up again and start all over. During the under training phase, you really cut back on your training.

There are a variety of different exercise approaches you can use during the accumulation phase. The important thing to remember is that this is a period during which you’re focusing on doing higher volume and fewer reps with weights lighter than what you would otherwise be using.

You also need to keep your rest periods shorter during the accumulation phase than you would in an ordinary training phase. As you move through the accumulation phase, you can push your body towards overtraining by increasing the number of reps and reducing the rest periods between sets. You can increase the weight too but only do so when you’ve increased the number of reps you’re doing by about 20%–and then only increase your weight by no more than five percent.

During the next phase, the workouts are going to get a lot more ‘intense,’ which is of course where the name ‘intensification’ comes from. The goal of this phase is to take a lower-volume, higher-intensity approach to training. You’ll want to do fewer sets, using more weight to really build up your size and strength. In comparison to the accumulation phase, your rest periods will be longer.

The de-loading or under training phase of accumulation and intensification is where your body finally gets the break it’s been craving. This part is absolutely essential because your body needs the time to rest and recover. Depending on each individual, the under-training phase will last two to three weeks. For most guys, two weeks of de-loading is sufficient but it will vary from one person to the next. It’s important to note that this phase isn’t a ‘vacation’ and it’s not a free license to go to the gym and hang around chatting with your buddies. You still need to work out, but at a significantly lower intensity than either of the two previous phases.

This is a basic overview of the accumulation and intensification approach to training. If you’re looking for something different that will yield excellent results, you might want to give this one a try. In fact fellow trainer Nick Nilsson is the author of a muscle mass building program called Mad Scientist Muscle which lays out a nice workout schedule for you based on this training principle.

mad-scientist250

You can incorporate accumulation and intensification in your workout by checking out Nick’s program at: http://www.madscientistmuscles.com

Top 10 Controversial Vince Gironda Beliefs

September 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Nutrition, Recent Posts, Tangents, Training

by Mike Westerdal

vinniegVince Gironda is one of bodybuilding’s pioneers. In fact many call him the father of bodybuilding. His roots go all the way back to the mid-1900s, when he opened his own gym in 1948, in North Hollywood, California. As a trainer and gym owner, Vince quickly developed a reputation as a trainer of champions, including the very first IFBB Mr. Olympia in 1965. From there, his fame grew and his gym began attracting some of the biggest names in bodybuilding, including Lou Ferrigno, Frank Zane and even Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Vince became well known for being a trainer of champion bodybuilders and Hollywood celebrities, but his training concepts and philosophies generated a lot of controversy. Many of his ideas were considered to be unconventional by much of the bodybuilding community. Despite his ‘unorthodox’ viewpoints, a lot of people really believed in Vince and his theories about bodybuilding and nutrition. Let’s take a look at some of the most polarizing things Vince said, and you can decide for yourself if he was truly ahead of his time.

1. Vince was one of the earliest professionals to make a strong connection between nutrition and performance. In fact, he went even said that bodybuilding was ‘85% nutrition.’ Some of his nutrition ideas were very controversial—like reducing carb intake during a cutting phase. Or the fact that he was a big proponent of drinking raw, unpasteurized milk, which has generated a big debate over the last couple of years. Some bodybuilders swear by it, but governmental health regulators consider drinking raw milk a dangerous practice—so much so that it’s banned in a number of states.

2. He didn’t believe in the bench press for building the pecs. He said that it put too much emphasis on the front deltoids and not enough on the pectoral muscles. Yikes! Tell that your buddies at the gym and see what kind of reaction you get. Instead of the bench press, Vince favored what he called the ‘neck press,’ which is sort of like a bench press, but instead of lowering the bar to your chest, you lower it to your neck, using less weight and a wider grip.

3. To improve digestion, Vince believed that it was important to put your legs and feet up higher than your stomach after every meal.

4. Vince did not believe that you should listen to music when working out. He felt that it was too distracting to bodybuilders. For him, music was only good for doing aerobic exercises.

5. In sharp contrast to what most experts say, Vince believed that beginning bodybuilders should train six days a week—not the three to four days a week you see advocated today. He reasoned that beginners are so full of energy and enthusiasm, that six days a week was good for them. He ruffled a lot of feathers with this one.

6. A fierce advocate of all natural bodybuilding, Vince believed that bodybuilders should eat up to 36 raw, fertilized eggs every day. He said that the effects of this were equivalent to taking the steroid Dianabol. Can’t even imagine where you’d find raw, fertilized eggs these days.

7. Unless you were a woman or a guy without any ‘junk in the trunk’ Vince didn’t believe in regular back squats—a staple of most any bodybuilding routine. Instead, he favored sissy squats, front squats and his own modified squat.

8. This isn’t so controversial now since it’s pretty widely accepted but Vince was one of the very first bodybuilding professionals to deride the sit-up as a strategy for building the abs. Back when he first made his thoughts on the subject known, you can bet riled some top professionals of the day.

9. And speaking of abs, Vince believed that most guys wasted far too much time training their abs. According to him, spending too much time training the abs shocked the central nervous system, disrupting muscle growth in other areas of the body.

10. According to Vince, there is such as thing as too much protein. A lot of guys would disagree with this but Vince said that excessive protein intake results in the opposite effect of what you want to achieve by consuming lots of protein. Vince had this crazy idea that you should consume the amount of protein that is right for you, based on gender, age, fitness level, training routine and lifestyle. In his mind, it’s foolish to consume massive amounts of protein just because some other guy is doing it.

vincesgym

So there you have it, ten of Vince’s more controversial viewpoints. You can decide for yourself whether or not you think Vince just liked controversy or was way ahead of his time. Leave a comment below and let me know which points you agree with, disagree with or if you have any other favorite quotes or view points of Vince that you’d like to share.

If you’re interested in learning more from Vince check out the book Vince Gironda Legend & Myth.