There seems to be an accepted notion that aesthetic bodybuilding techniques can’t be integrated within the structure of an empirical powerlifting workout program. I firmly believe otherwise.
It has been my observation upon viewing the iron game there are two types of people. First there are those who are pumpers and toners and secondly there are those who concentrate on the brute power of heavy lifting alone.
That is until recently when we have a metamorphosis of a third type of hybrid person who trains to combine the best of both worlds. It involves the nice blood choked pump of the bodybuilder yet it’s got the rugged and capable power of a strength athlete. When you combine these two approaches you have what is called powerbuilding or powerbodybuilding.
Powerbodybuilding can be used by competitive bodybuilders as well. It’s great for the early cycle in which a bodybuilder is embarked on the critical muscle mass building phase. For the contest entering and winning bodybuilder it is important for him to be perceived as someone who doesn’t just have herculean size which is ALL SHOW and NO GO. There’s a stereotype out there that bodybuilders are not very strong. Using a powerbodybuilding method at the beginning of their contest cycle they’ll be able to back up the great cosmetic physique with some real world strength and power.
Likewise a strength athlete or powerlifter would like for the public to perceive them as not just someone that lifts heavy iron, but also has the rugged, solid and capable look of a finely tuned athlete.
One of the saddest things I have observed especially in the powerlifting arena is that of the lifters who weight under 242 pounds.
Many of them possess tremendous tendon and ligament strength but yet as far as overall behemoth muscular bulk they just don’t have it. And when you throw a long sleeved shirt and tie on them they pretty much blend with the masses of the general public.
Personally, that bothers me. Granted, tendon and ligament strength is important I admit to that. But I’ve observed lifters with larger physiques than mine that move much less heavy iron that I do. I feel that they’re more into a pump phase of training, which is fine, but deep down I know they desperately want to possess more superhuman strength and power. Enter POWERBODYBUILDING.
I am not the lone proponent of the POWERBODYBUILDING movement (I am only seeking to introduce a renewed interest in this powerful training component), there have been others over the span of the last 60 years. Some of the most notable luminaries of this movement that I can think of offhand includes and is not limited to: Malcom Brenner, Franco Columbu, Jeff Everson, Lou Ferrigno, John Carl Grimek, Donne Hale, Mike & Ray Mentzer, Sergio Oliva, Reg Park, Bill Pearl, Clancy ross, Bill Seno, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Sipes and Dorian Yates, just to name a few.
If I am not mistaken POWERBODYBUILDING may have achieved its zenith when one of the criteria’s for entering an AAU sanctioned physique event required athletic events such as Olympic & Powerlifting to help secure additional points in the physique contest itself. Sad to say that’s not the case today.
All of the guys I have just mentioned have been great
assets to the physique game because for them to get the size they possessed they had to do some heavy, heavy lifting and if you looked at their workout programs you could see that they combined heavy tendon and ligament building movements with the muscle sculpting movements of the cosmetic bodybuilder.
It was not uncommon for Franco Columbu to bench in the high 400´s or deadlift over 700 pounds for a big triple. In tests of power, moving a huge weight in a short movement, deadlifts, squats, supports were all easy for John Carl Grimek. Clancy Ross was fully capable of getting 180-pound dumbbells in position self-assisted for some heft incline work.
And who can forget Chuck Sipes who could squat 6 to 700 pounds and bench nearly 600 pounds, when nobody else near his bodyweight was even close. Plus he was an IFBB super-star bodybuilder to boot.
It’s not by accident that all of the names I have mentioned have ended up at the top in the iron game. They not only looked the part (cosmetic bodybuilder) but they all could push the heavy iron that the general public perceived of them.
Naturally the question may arise as to whether the days of just being a pumper or toner are gone? Well, in my opinion I would have to say No!
Why not? Because there is still going to be a lot of people involved in the sport of bodybuilding who don’t have any aspirations of taking their training to that 3rd or 4th level of intensity it takes to train heavy. However if they do then it’s going to be way more competitive, mark my words, and I think as you see the sport metamorphosize into the year 2025 you’ll see more powerbodybuilding taking place because you will just have an overall edge over someone that just pumps the dog crap out of the muscles while giving little or no regard to gaining super human strength.
Now some people still might not know the difference between muscle bulk training and pump training so let me elaborate.
When a bodybuilder or a powelifter bulk train they use heavy, heavy weights to tear down deep muscle tissue membranes. The muscle rebounds (recovers) and grows abundantly. This is what is called ultimate hypertrophy.
Now on the other hand if a bodybuilder or powerlifter subjects themselves to light pumping movements you’ll gorge the muscle with blood literally. I call this a suck pump. Granted this type of training will shape and bring up the muscularity of the muscle bellies but it lacks the integrity of bulk training.
If you want to retain the transitory muscle thickness that you experienced with the flush pump training then you will have to include the deep tearing down of the heavy weight training. This is one of the best ways to retain muscle thickness (density) where in the morning you wake up and you still look pretty big.
What I am trying to gear this article towards is for you bodybuilders and powerlifters who desire total development and total strength while being less concerned about specialization in one area. Your overall strength and muscular size will definitely increase using a POWERBODYBUILDING program. This is because the program is physiologically construed to provide heavy high intensity work (muscle bulk training) for size and strength and volume high rep work (flush pump training) and to add fullness and vascularity to the muscle.
It has been my aspiration for quite a while now to introduce a powerbodybuilding system of training that can be used by beginners, intermediates and advanced men. Check out the brand new resource below for more information on exactly how to structure your training with a powerbodybuilding approach.
The Secret Training Methods That Transformed A Scrawny Former Marathon Runner Into A Massive Power-Bodybuilder- Bench Pressing 515 Lbs & QUADRUPLING Overall Body Strength & Power. Click here for the story.
Guest post by Andy Bolton of Deadlift Dynamite
1. Realize that strength training is a violent pursuit
You may have never thought about strength training as something violent, but it is. Think about it: when you squat, you put a weight on your back that could potentially cripple you if it all goes wrong. When you bench, you lift a bar above your body that if dropped on your neck will probably kill you.
And the deadlift encourages you to lift weights from the floor that could break your back if you don’t have the correct form and know how to stay tight.
Indeed, if you don’t get a buzz from watching MMA, boxing, rugby, American football or some other “violent” sport, you are probably not cut out for serious strength training. However, if you do get a kick out of watching those sports and have a passion for getting stronger, you need to develop…
If you want to dominate the kind of weights that the average lifters can’t even hope to lift, you have to be aggressive.
When you are in the hole on the squat, with your max on your back, you have to drive that bar back to the start position like your life depends on it.
The same goes for the bench press: when the bar touches your chest, you have to crush it with serious aggression and drive it back to the start position.
And as for the deadlift, I don’t think any other lift is so dependent on being in the right state of mind. Watch my world record deadlifts and you will see my training partner slap my face beforehand for several minutes. As Dave “Bulldog” Beattie does this I am allowing my aggression to build. When the time comes I push Dave out of the way (not easy to do given that he’s 300lbs) and then I unleash hell on the bar.
That’s the kind of attitude all the best guys have. If you want to see aggression, watch me lift, watch Captain Kirk lift, watch Chuck Vogelphol lift, watch my training partner Brian Reynolds lift—all great lifters, all very aggressive. You can get ok strength without aggression, but if you want to be super strong, you have to be an animal.
With that said, you also need…
The ability to think clearly and see things as they are is of vital importance to the strength athlete. Only when you think clearly will you be able to objectively work out your weaknesses and address them accordingly.
Only when you think clearly will you know when to push and when to hold back, when to get psyched up before a lift and when to just be aggressive when you are actually under the bar. Only when you think clearly will you be able to stay injury free and ensure your own longevity. Clarity is essential for success. Most people are unclear and unsuccessful. There is a pattern right there.
Visualization is a simple yet highly powerful mental skill that all successful people have. Science has proven that if you think about something over and over again and with enough intensity, your brain can’t actually tell the difference between whether or not you have actually done what you are thinking about or just imagined it.
So… the trick is to visualize yourself going for and SUCCEEDING with personal bests over and over again before you actually attempt them. I “saw myself” lift 1,008lbs thousands of times before I actually pulled it for real. When the time came to do it in competition, I actually felt like it was nothing new. Embrace visualization and use it to help you get stronger.
At the same time…
5. Avoid excess negativity
The reason why I say to avoid excess negativity and not just to avoid negativity is because we all have negative thoughts and we always will have. The difference is that some people dwell on negative thoughts and allow them to sabotage their success, while others quickly eliminate them and/or work out if there is a hidden message.
In relation to lifting, the biggest example of negativity is people who see themselves missing personal bests. Never, ever do this and if you catch yourself doing this, stop it straight away and imagine yourself succeeding 10 times. In order to ‘catch’ negative thoughts before they get out of hand, you must have…
Tony Robbins says that most people live their lives like a leaf on a river. In other words—they go where the river takes them, with no real control over where they are going. If you want control over your life and your strength, you must be like the speed boat on the river; able to pick its course and do what it wants—instead of being dictated to by your surroundings and circumstances… you must take control and make things happen.
When you are focused, you will naturally take control and spend your time more wisely. Right now, do a quick exercise that will get you focused…
• Take out a sheet of paper
• Write down three 30 day goals
• Write down three 3 month goals
• Write down three 12 month goals
• Write down a big, outrageous 3 to 5 year goal
Read these goals every day and tick them off as you do achieve them. Finally, you must be:
Bruce Lee talks about flowing like water. You must be the same. No matter how well you plan, things will always need to be tweaked and altered along the way. That goes for strength training and everything you do in life.
Do not be stubborn, be flexible. If something’s not working, be man enough to change it.
When discussing the most influential bodybuilders of the ‘golden age’ of bodybuilding, the name Steve Davis is inevitably brought into the conversation. Steve is arguably one of the most muscular and symmetrical bodybuilders of any generation.
Throughout his illustrious bodybuilding career, Steve competed at the highest level from 1968 until 2002, competing in 2 Mr. Olympia’s (1979, 1981); 3 Masters Olympia (1997, 1999, 2002); 2 IFBB Mr. America’s (1975, 1977); 10 IFBB Pro circuit contests (including Canada Pro Cup, Grand Prix World Cup, Grand Prix California, etc.); NABBA Mr. Universe (1977); IFBB Mr. World (1977) and more.
In terms of his peers, Steve’s list looks as though it was drawn straight from the Bodybuilder Hall of Fame roster and included: Frank Zane; Chris Dickerson; Franco Colombu; Boyer Coe; Dennis Tinerino; Robby Robinson; Mike Mentzer; Tom Platz; Serge Nubret; Casey Viator; Ed Corney; Roger Callard; Jim Morris; Warren Frederick; Dave Johns; Eddie Guilani; Danny Padilla; Pete Grymkowski; Harold Poole, and many others.
An interesting fact about Steve is that he transformed from a very powerful 285-pound powerlifter to a 200-pound IFBB Mr. World—without using dangerous performance enhancing drugs. His transformation was in fact, legendary. Steve attributed his successful transformation to the highly methodical approach he used to achieve his goal of being a world champion bodybuilder.
Once he decided that he wanted to be a successful competitive bodybuilder the transformation began. The first step in the process was performing an honest assessment on his nutrition, diet, supplementation and training programs. Afterwards, Steve sought out the best among his peers and put a plan together to reach his goal of being Mr. World by building his body to its full genetic potential.
And as I said, the most amazing part of Steve’s transformation is that he was able to achieve his goal without the use of drugs. This is a significant challenge in that natural drug-free bodybuilders are not as equipped to handle the same workloads as bodybuilders who rely on anabolic steroids or other potentially dangerous performance enhancing drugs.
The bodybuilders who rely on performance enhancers are able to handle super heavy workloads only because of the large quantities of artificial chemicals and enzymes that are acting in conjunction with the person’s natural abilities to add muscle size and increase strength. Consequently, the anabolic steroid bodybuilder’s training frequency ratios and intensity factors are much higher than that of natural bodybuilders.
When Steve set his mind to becoming Mr. World, he turned to his peers for guidance, one of whom was the legendary Vince Gironda. Vince played a critical role in helping Steve to put his ‘Mr. World’ plan together and then carry it out. Overall, Steve trained with Vince for 3 decades. In reality, their relationship was symbiotic—with both men helping each other.
For example, Steve was there when Vince’s 8 x 8, 6 x 6 theories were being implemented. Steve was among the first to try out these strategies first-hand and was actually was part of the development process. So not only did Vince help him, but Steve helped Vince to refine and improve his theories, which of course ultimately led to Vince being one of the greatest bodybuilding legends of all time.
Steve’s approach to building muscle was simple: The key factor in training for additional size and muscularity is to get stronger by consistently using heavier and heavier weights in the exercise sets. Steve always stressed the fact that this must not be done at the expense or sacrifice of proper form.
He strongly believed that if an exercise is not performed in strict fashion; isolating the muscle you are attempting to train, then you have no accurate gauge of your progress—if any—in getting stronger.
To develop a nutritional strategy Steve worked very closely with nutrition and supplementation guru Rheo H. Blair (also known as Irvin Johnson). In the nutrition and supplementation world, Rheo was the equivalent of Vince Gironda—among the world’s most respected experts.
And like the mutually-beneficial relationship with Vince, the relationship between Steve and Rheo was symbiotic, benefitting both men and their careers. Vince and Rheo collaborated extensively throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s on nutrition and supplementation with Steve being one of the primary beneficiaries of the relationship.
Throughout his bodybuilding career, Steve remained a mentor and role model to many throughout the world, and not just among the bodybuilding community. At the gym where Steve trained many experienced trainers and trainees regularly sought his advice on all aspects of training, diet, nutrition and supplementation.
Steve was always happy to spend time answering questions from the countless guys who viewed him as a mentor and role model.
Chad Waterbury is a neurophysiologist and fitness author whose unique training methods have been embraced by a wide range of athletes, bodybuilders, figure models, and fitness enthusiasts of all ages and from all walks of life.
Previously, Chad we was the director of strength and conditioning at the Rickson Gracie International Jiu Jitsu Center in West Los Angeles. He now works with professional fighters, celebrities and non-athletes one-on-one. He contributes to many magazines such as Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Fight! and the T-Muscle bodybuilding Web site. He is also the author of Huge in a Hurry and Muscle Revolution. He also lectures at fitness conferences and gives personal seminars.
Chad has a master’s degree in physiology from the University of Arizona, where his focus on the neurophysiology of human movement and performance led him to make radical changes in the way he trains competitive athletes as well as nonathletic clients. His workouts are now shorter and faster, producing superior results in strength, power, and muscular development, while at the same time inducing less fatigue and allowing for shorter recovery periods between workouts.
Chad’s latest effort is a program entitled HFT (High Frequency Training)
It is a custom method he developed to strategically target specific muscle groups for growth. His program is based on the premise that most guys who increase training frequency to target muscle growth go about it all wrong.
Here are three problems with the ‘typical’ high frequency training approach:
1. The initial volume of work is excessive: Increasing training frequency is only effective if your recovery capacity is prepared for the extra load. Adding too much too soon sets you up for overtraining, which can activate the general adaptation syndrome (GAS) response, a three-state physiological defense mechanism that can wreak havoc on your immune system.
2. No progression plan: Without a plan to progressively challenge your muscles to do more, you’ll quickly hit a troublesome plateau.
3. Not varying the movement patterns: our muscles are highly adept at adjusting to movement patterns. When you repeatedly perform the same movement day after day, muscle growth grinds to a halt.
Chad’s approach to high frequency training (HFT) takes each of these factors into account and in doing so, removes them all as barriers to growth. The HFT program is divided into five sections:
I) Real-World Observations
II) Muscle Science
III) High Frequency Training
IV) Targeted HFT
V) Full-Body HFT.
In the first section of the book Chad provides some good background information relating to how he was inspired to develop his HFT program by observing real-world examples of targeted muscle growth. In this part of the book he includes a very interesting discussion about practical strategies for increasing training volume—and therefore pushing the muscles to get bigger and stronger. In order to stimulate muscle growth, the added volume must be significant. At the same—and this is where most guys make mistakes—the increased volume must also be manageable.
This is followed by Section II, provides a brief but thorough overview of the science behind muscle growth.
In Section III, Chad gets into the nuts and bolts of his HFT program, outlining the specific steps you need to take in order to achieve the desired gains. Chad describes his approach to HFT as a “system of working a muscle group four or more times per week to increase lean muscle mass. The hypertrophy comes from a higher volume of work through more frequent training. Each short workout provides enough stimulus for growth, and then the volume steadily increases in a manageable way.”
In Sections III, IV and V, he offers up two approaches to HFT implementation: 1) targeted; and 2) full-body. The targeted approach is for those who want to strategically target specific muscle groups for improvement. For the targeted approach you perform two super-mini workouts for the targeted muscle groups twice a day for a 28-day period. Option two is to perform four fully-body workouts each week for a 12-week period.
Chad does an excellent job in describing the exercises movements and outlining a clear pathway for both HFT approaches. HFT does not rely on machines, restrictive movements or isolated exercises. Rather, all of the exercises are compound movements that use rings, body weight or free weights. The program emphasizes a sufficient training volume and lays out a realistic progression plan.
After reviewing Chad’s High Frequency Training program I’m pleased to recommend it to anyone who is looking for an effective approach to either target specific muscles for growth of build all-around lean body mass through full-body workouts. Chad has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a true expert who offers real-world, practical solutions—HFT is no exception.
Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench Interviews Chad Waterbury creator of High Frequency Training
CB: Chad, thanks for doing this interview. You’ve worked with many different clients over the years and one specialty you’re known for is muscle growth. Tell us more about that.
Chad: When I started training clients 17 years ago, most of my clients were guys who wanted to build muscle. Since they hired me, it was obvious they were hardgainers. So I had to quickly learn how to add muscle to them or else I would’ve had to find another profession.
Since then, I’ve worked with every type of guy you can imagine. One common factor is that they all want to build muscle fast. An athlete needs it to boost his performance, and a regular guy wants it so he can perform better in the gym and look better on the beach. In any case, when it comes to muscle growth, the laws of physiology don’t change based on what you do for a living.
CB: When muscle growth is slow, what’s usually to blame?
Chad: That’s a good question. Nutrition can certainly be a problem. I’ve found that stuffing your gut with protein powders every few hours can slow muscle gains by reducing protein synthesis. It can have a pro-inflammatory effect and this reduces muscle growth, recovery, and performance.
Most often, however, the problem lies within the person’s training parameters. You must shock the muscle with a powerful stimulus in order to make it grow. Sometimes the answer is to drastically increase your training intensity. Successful bodybuilders such as Mike Mentzer, Dorian Yates, and Ronnie Coleman have all extolled the benefits of high intensity training.
But there’s a major problem with following the high intensity approach popularized by professional bodybuilders: it doesn’t work for the vast majority of guys out there. If it did work, we’d all be following it.
CB: So what does work when a guy has a hard time building muscle?
Chad: That’s a question that’s taken me the better part of my career to figure out. When I was a young trainer I tried all the approaches you read about in muscle magazines. I’m sure your readers did, too. Virtually none of them worked to any respectable degree.
It wasn’t until 2001 when I saw the Alexis brothers perform their routine in Mystère in Las Vegas that I started to take a different approach to training my clients. Those guys have strength, athleticism, and physiques that anyone would commit a felony to have.
I knew the Alexis brothers had superb genetics, but when you consider that they were doing 10 shows per week with multiple practice sessions in between, it made sense to mimic what they did. At least it was worth a try.
Now, there were obviously two things they were doing that most hardgainers weren’t doing. First, they were training their muscles much more frequently than the typical two or three times per week bodybuilding routines. Second, their training was manageable from a recovery standpoint. It had to be because they were doing 10 shows per week.
When I got home I started training with a higher frequency because I was at a stage in my life when I wanted to be much bigger. So I ate everything in sight and doubled my training frequency. I worked my way up to 286 pounds. That’s a lot for me because my body wants to weigh around 195 pounds. I wasn’t ripped but I didn’t care at the time. The higher frequency of training shocked my body into growth.
I also started implementing high frequency training (HFT) protocols into my client’s programs to target stubborn muscle growth. So if my client had proportionally small arms, or pecs, or calves – any muscle group, really – I increased the frequency for training that muscle group up to 10 times per week.
CB: Wow, so they spent a lot of time in the gym.
Chad: Actually, they didn’t. I had them perform extra training sessions that only lasted a few minutes each day with dumbbell or body weight exercises. Sometimes I would prescribe pull-ups to a guy who had a pull-up bar at home, other times it would be an exercise that only required a dumbbell.
If I was going to have my clients train their muscles more frequently, I knew those extra mini-workouts couldn’t take much time or require trips to the gym. This is one aspect of HFT that I got right from the start.
Where I fell short was with the initial training parameters. Sometimes I would prescribe too much too soon. Other times I wouldn’t vary the movement pattern enough and their joints would get aggravated. This is why I no longer recommend daily pull-ups from a fixed bar. When the wrists are locked into place it puts excessive stress on the elbows and shoulders.
CB: What have you found are the keys to fast muscle growth?
Chad: First, train the stubborn muscle groups more frequently. You need at least four sessions per week with full-body training. And if it’s a specific muscle group like your biceps you should train it six or seven days per week.
Second, the initial training volume must be relatively low. It doesn’t take much work to turn on protein synthesis, but that stimulus must occur frequently throughout the week. No matter how hard you try you can’t get much growth from a single training session, or even in a day.
Look, as I’ve said numerous times, if 100 sets of curls in one day could add an inch to your biceps, every guy would’ve found time to do it. But it won’t work because there’s only so much growth you can stimulate in a day.
Now, if you increase that stimulus to six or seven times per week you’ll get much faster muscle gains. It’s simple math: more work will lead to more growth, provided your body can recover from the workout. This is why you should start with a low volume of work when you merge into HFT. You never want to do more than is required at first.
Third, there must be a steady progression plan in place. If you do 100 push-ups every day you’ll gain respectable mass within the first few weeks but then your growth will come to a halt.
Why? Because the body has already added all the muscle tissue it needs to adapt to the demand. You must make your muscles perform more work over time. Adding as little as one rep per day can do the trick.
For example, let’s say your pecs need more size and you do 50 push-ups per day to fix the problem. If you’re a 200-pound guy you’re pushing 150 pounds with each rep. By adding one rep per day you made those muscles do an additional 3150 pounds of work by the end of the first week. This added volume accumulates quickly. It’s like compounding interest for your muscles.
CB: And this is why High Frequency Training works so well?
Chad: Yes, when you start with the right exercises, volume, and progression plan, you can make any stubborn muscle add mass within four weeks. A properly designed HFT plan will build muscle faster than anything I’ve seen.
My new muscle-building system, High Frequency Training, takes all the guesswork out of the process. It contains 28-day plans for all major muscle groups if you just need to target undeveloped body parts. And it contains a 12-week full-body plan if you need to quickly add muscle across your entire body. Plus, a complete nutrition program and instructional videos are included.
It’s my best muscle-building system to date.
CB: Thanks Chad! If you’re a guy who feels over trained this could be a great change of pace plus a great way to add muscle fast. Click here to learn more about Chad’s new HFT program.
CB: Shawna, thanks for doing this Q&A with us. How did you get started working out?
Shawna: I was always involved in sport as a kid. I swam competitively for 12 years and did every school sport I could on top of that. I skied competitively as well and competed in bodybuilding back in the day. To be honest, sport kept me focused and out of trouble in a turbulent childhood.
CB: You and me both! Tell us more about your bodybuilding days.
Shawna: After I was done swimming and skiing competitively, I was challenged in the weight room. I did sport specific training prior to deciding to try my hand at bodybuilding. I enjoyed the training aspect of bodybuilding. It was a great way to learn about my body, how it reacted to workouts and nutrition etc. But I didn’t agree with the whole sport in general. I hated that my success or failure was based on subjective criteria, even though I was successful in the competitions I entered. (That’s a whole other rant for me…) I learned a ton from that experience that now I can pass on to others when I train them.
CB: How do people in every day life react to your muscles? Do they admire you, tease you, stare at you or compliment you?
Shawna: I’m actually surprised when I see myself in videos, I guess I don’t necessarily look ‘average’. I really don’t notice people reacting to my physique much. If I’m wearing short sleeves, someone may compliment my arms or something, but I just accept the compliment and I don’t make a big deal of it. I don’t feel I’m really freakish at all at about 120lbs. I mean I’ve seen some very muscular women in bodybuilding circles. I think that women admire my physique because I’m not ‘big’ and I carry myself well, good posture goes a long way.
CB: You run a bootcamp too right? That’s so different than bodybuilding style workouts, how did you get interested in that?
Shawna: Bodybuilding isn’t necessarily great ‘functional’ training and isn’t for everyone. In fact, it appeals to very few people. I wanted to reach a lot of people with practical ways to train that’s fun and effective. Boot camp style and body weight training is great for the majority of people.
CB: What’s more important performance or aesthetics?
Shawna: Performance trumps aesthetics hands down. But, if you play your cards right you can have both. How you look is basically all about nutrition. So if you’re training hard, your abs are made in the kitchen. Eat properly and you’ll look lean and athletic as well. It’s not rocket science. Everyone is looking for a magic bullet. They look at me and think I have some special secret. Here’s my secret: train hard consistently and eat nutritionally dense clean food. This isn’t sexy but it’s the magic. If it were easy, everyone would look amazing. It just takes commitment and focus.
CB: You sure can, we call it PowerBuilding. Do people over 40 need to work out differently than people in their 20s and 30s?
Shawna: People in their 40’s need to EAT differently than people in their 20’s and 30’s. There’s less of a margin of error. Where in my 20’s I could follow the 80/20 rule (eating clean 80% of the time), in my 30’s it may have changed to 85/15 and now it’s possibly 90/10. I can’t ‘goof’ off nutritionally as much now as I could have in my 20’s. Mind you, I’ve become such a functional eater, that I don’t crave the things I did in my 20’s either.
As for training, I can train as hard or harder now as I did when I was younger as long as I train ‘smarter’. I have some knee issues that I have to work around, as others will have physical issues in their 40’s. I have to listen to my body more. I probably require a little more in terms of recovery time. Keep in mind that I’ve never taken an extended time off from training. If someone hasn’t done anything since high school, that’s a totally different story.
CB: Speaking of nutrition, what’s the biggest factor leading to fat gain in North America?
Shawna: I hate to say it, but it seems people are afraid of hard work and discipline with training and nutrition. Like I said earlier, if it were easy to look great, everyone would be sporting a rocking body. I like that you can’t ‘buy’ a lean, athletic physique, it has to be earned with effort and sweat. If more people were willing to prioritize this then there would be less fat gain. I don’t want to sound like a super freak either. I have a balanced life of running several businesses and I’m a mother of two. I invest in about 40 minutes of training daily along with proper eating. I don’t spend hours in the kitchen either. It’s all a matter of priorities.
CB: What’s your favorite exercise and why?
Shawna: Dude, how can I answer that? I’m supposed to say pull ups, but I love several exercises. If I had to narrow it down, I’d have to say bench pressing, squatting and burpee pull ups.
To me, these are pretty basic moves that hit my entire body. I usually do a split routine, so I don’t combine the three of these together much.
CB: You like burpees?! I do them, but I don’t like them. What exercise measures relative strength the best in your opinion?
Shawna: Pull ups are a great measure of upper body strength. They also help with the ‘other move’ that everyone thinks is the best measure of upper body strength: the bench press. Pull ups help balance the physique and for women especailly, they really help shape and tone the body. Show me a woman that incorporates pull ups in her routine and I’ll bet she has a nice shape.
CB: Why do you think it’s rare to see people doing pull ups in the gym?
Shawna: Pull ups are tough! You can’t use traditional progressive resistance training techniques when doing the pull up. You can either do one or you can’t. Ego prevents many from even giving it a try, especially in a gym situation. But if people give them a try and used some of the controlled cheating techniques I use, they’d be able to do impressive sets of pull ups.
CB: What are your 3 best tips someone can use right away to get better at pull ups?
Shawna: I’ve got many tips, but I’ll narrow it down to three. Here you go:
1. Pull ups should really be called chest ups. Your goal is to get your chest under the bar. This allows you to utilize the stronger muscles of the back and directly increase scapular strength and stability versus pulling with just the biceps.
2. One of the best ways to improve pull up strength is through eccentric training. You can use a variety of assisted pull ups to get your chest up to the bar, then slowly lower your body from the bar using control. It’s the lowering from the pull up bar that builds strength. Working the negative is key.
3. Controlled cheating is perfectly acceptable when increasing pull up power. Once you’ve maxed out with your own power on the pull up, use things like assisted pull ups, band assisted pull ups, jump pull ups and you can even add a ‘kip’ to your pull up to help increase your strength. Employing controlled pull up techniques is like doing a ‘forced rep’ and ultimately will increase your overall strength and power on the pull up. Of course the controlled ‘cheat’ on the pull up will be followed with working the eccentric contraction.
CB: Here’s a bonus tip. Check out Shawna’s Pull Up Program Here. Shawna, are you dressing up for Halloween?
Shawna: Well, due to Hurricane Sandy, it seems all flights everywhere have been delayed and cancelled. So instead of handing out candy to my neighbors, I’m stranded waiting for a flight home from the east coast that’s been rescheduled for tomorrow. I’m dressed up as a frustrated traveler who’s very thankful for a safe home to be going to.
CB: That sucks but we’re glad you’re okay. What’s new in Shawna’s life? Got any cool projects coming up?
Shawna: I’m excited to be pairing up with Boot Camp Finisher guy Mikey Whitfield and Boot Camp Games dude Brian Kalakay along with my Challenge Workouts: Boot Camp Edition to make The Ultimate Boot Camp System which will launch next week. We really feel like we have the a lot to offer boot camp owners to spice up their camps with tools so clients stay, pay and refer.
As well, I’m looking at the new year to launch a private coaching program with Challenge Workouts. I really love working one on one with people to help them meet their personal fitness goals.
CB: That’s awesome, we’ll be following and cheering for ya. Thanks for the Q&A Shawna!
Shawna: Thanks for the opportunity to share with your audience Mike. I’m looking forward to chatting more with you in the future. Love the ‘Fix My Shoulder Pain‘ program, it certainly helped lots of my clients.
Challenge Workouts! Strong Enough for a Man…..
But Made By a Woman (That Can Probably Kick Your Butt!)
As told to CriticalBench.com by Shawna Kaminski
I’m Shawna Kaminski, aka ‘The Pull Up Queen’. You’re going to think I’m a little biased when I start talking pull ups, but hear me out.
I can easily do 20+ pull ups and my bench isn’t too shabby either. Consider that I’m a 49 year old mother of two and former Catholic school-teacher as well, I was never a gymnast or Cirque de Soleil performer. I’m just an ‘average’ woman with some above average skills. I’ve got a few things I can tell you to help with both your pull ups AND your bench press.
Go to any gym and the most common question asked is ‘how much can you bench?’ Traditionally this is ‘the’ measure of upper body strength and power. More accurately, if you’re looking for a measure of upper body relative strength, you should ask ‘how many pull ups can you do?’
Nobody asks this, but pull ups are a great indicator of overall upper body functional strength similar to the bench press. Many people with an impressive bench press struggle with body weight pull ups let alone weighted pull ups.
Guess what? Training with pull ups will actually increase your bench press, so along with getting impressive functional strength, you’ll get impressive bench numbers too when you incorporate more pull ups in your training.
As you know, it’s imperative to have a strong base of support when bench pressing. It’s necessary to keep the shoulder blades together and depressed. The expression ‘shooting a cannon from a canoe’ can be used as an analogy with the bench press. Poor scapular stability is going to lead to poor transfer of force that will in turn result in poor bench performance.
The good news is that vertical pulling, such as is done with the pull up, will develop scapular stability. You’ll develop a solid foundation from which you can push weight on the bench. In addition, the pull up reduces muscle imbalances created by doing heavy pushing exercises. Pulling muscles are often overlooked and under developed.
If you currently can’t do many pull ups, I want to share three tips to help you:
First off let’s talk body position. Pull ups should really be called chest ups. Your goal is to get your chest under the bar. This allows you to utilize the stronger muscles of the back and directly increase scapular strength and stability versus pulling with just the arms or biceps.
A common mistake many make is that they inwardly rotate the shoulders as they try to bring the chin up and over the bar. Rather, squeeze the shoulder blades together, think elbows down and back to work the upper back. More strength and power will come from the larger muscles of the back this way.
One of the best ways to improve pull up strength is through eccentric training. You can use a variety of assisted pull ups to get your chest up to the bar, then slowly lower your body from the bar using control. It’s the lowering from the pull up bar that builds strength.
Controlled cheating is perfectly acceptable when increasing pull up power. I don’t recommend cheating on loaded movements due to the risk of injury, but the pull up is different. Traditional progressive resistance training methods don’t apply. Once you’ve maxed out with your own power on the pull up, add a ‘kip’. Drive the knees forward to transfer power from the lower body to upward momentum. Doing a kipping pull up is like doing a ‘forced rep’ and ultimately will increase your overall strength and power on the pull up.
Convinced that you need to start doing pull ups now?
Not only will you look like a super freak athlete when you knock out rep after rep of pull ups, but your bench press will also improve.
And, if nothing else, consider the little lady in the corner (me) spanking you on the pull up bar to light a fire under your butt to get started.