By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach
Q: I am a natural drug free bodybuilder and it seems to me that I hit sticking points in my training a heck of a lot quicker that some of my buddies who are on the “juice”. No matter how hard I try, progress almost seems like an impossibility some times. Maybe I am just not tough enough or not training intensely enough. I know that you have trained natural all of your life so what are some of the secrets you have learned for making continued progress.
A: The simple answer…Do more heavy barbell squats and deadlifts to help create an anabolic effect. But then you might whine and tell me that you couldn’t do these kind of exercises because you have bad knees and a weak back. So I will stick with non-exercise tips to help keep you anabolic…sound fair enough?
To begin with, you want to avoid at all costs the negative influences which create a catabolic (muscle robbing) effect on the muscles such as: Over-training, poor nutrition, not enough rest and emotional stress.
The positive influences for staying in the anabolic (muscle gain) environment includes and is not limited to: Proper training, nutrition, rest and a positive mental attitude.
With regard to proper nutrition, the late Vince Gironda always seemed to have some natural anabolic secrets in his bag of goodies. So rather than give you my personal secrets to anabolism, let’s look to an icon in the bodybuilding world. Here are “3” of his secrets.
Vince used to suggest taking three to four amino acid tablets and 3 to 10 liver tablets every three hours to help keep the body in a positive nitrogen state between meals and during those times when a person can’t eat a normal meal or snack.
(Liver contains a red protein pigment called Cytrochrome P-450 which accounts for the endurance factors that many hard training bodybuilders receive from taking it. Back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s it was common to see many bodybuilding competitors take as many as 60 Liver tablets a day in the off-season and 100 tablets the last few weeks prior to a competition).
Another of Vince’s Anabolic Secrets that has proven to be beneficial in the promotion of muscular weight gains was to eat 1 boiled egg every hour that you are awake. I know that sounds like a ton of eggs and potentially challenging to do considering work, family etc…so then shoot for every 2-3 hours and see if that gets you anywhere.
Back in the 1960’s the late, Vince Gironda “The Iron Guru” revealed to the bodybuilding world the Euro-Blast Weight Gaining BIG SECRET that the European muscle monsters were using to gain muscle density. Vince begin using it on his students to increase their body weight by as much as 40 pounds.
Get ready to be slightly grossed out but also intrigued…
The BIG SECRET is simply drinking 6 ounces of half & half or certified raw cream mixed with 6 ounces of ginger ale.
Blah! I know, but it worked.
Sometimes to trigger the anabolic or growth mechanism of the body even further Vince would advise adding 2 ounces of a milk & egg protein powder.
Just so you know, milk and egg protein sources allow for some of the best absorption of all the protein sources. This means that both eggs and milk are more biologically available than several other protein sources making them high on the list of best protein options.
The students at Vince’s Gym in Ventura, California enjoyed this drink as a daily in-between meal pickup at 10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Nick Nilsson Interviews Mike Westerdal About Lean Hybrid Muscle Building
NN: Hey Mike, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I heard your boss over at Critical Bench sent you on an extended vacation for stirring up all this controversy lately.
MW: Ya my boss is a real jerk. No, I’m just kidding, I’m my own boss. Most people don’t even know that’s my site. I’m kind of coming out from behind the curtain so to speak to share some workouts I’ve been experimenting with lately.
NN: What exactly do you mean by Hybrid?
MW: It’s pretty cool because it has a double meaning in this case. The general definition of “hybrid” is combining two or more different things. In this case we want to take the best of several training philosophies in order to accomplish multiple goals at one time.
We also have what’s been called the “Hybrid Muscle” which is really what Lean Hybrid Muscle Building is all about.
NN: Okay Mike I’ll take the bait, what the heck is a “Hybrid Muscle”?
MW: When talking about “super hybrid muscle,” we’re referring to a muscle that has essentially been reconfigured, adding mitochondrial density, which results in a bigger stronger muscle with more endurance capacity. This is accomplished by combining cardio and strength training into a single activity.
I learned a lot about hybrid super muscle through the book The Purposeful Primitive, written by Marty Gallagher. It’s one of my all time favorite books.
By combining cardio and resistance activities it causes the composition of muscles to transform from predominately type II or type IIb into Type III. By doing this, we are able to push “beyond our genetic limits”.
Having more mitochondria in the muscle cells means that more nutrients can be processed, giving the muscles the ability to work considerably harder for longer periods. They’re also able to grow larger and are able to resist getting tired for longer periods.
NN: Type III muscle? Did you make that up or are you claiming to have invented a new muscle fiber?
MW: I wish I could take credit for that, but no. After reading Marty’s book I started my research and learned that a lot of guys have been preaching this stuff for a while. It’s nothing new. It’s just something a lot of people haven’t heard about.
Early adaptors of this theory included Dr. Len Schwartz who in 1995 coined the phrase “Long Strength”. Dr. Schwartz describes Long strength as “the ability to exert significant strength for an extended period of time.”
John Parrillo-the second proponent of long strength-began having his bodybuilders doing really high intensity cardio. He claimed that doing this actually altered the muscle composition. He called this form a resistance training the “100 rep extended set,” saying that it helped the body to construct more mitochondria-the muscles’ “cellular blast furnaces.” He also says that this increases muscular growth by developing the circulatory pathways that provide nourishment to the muscles.
Ori Hofmekler is the third early adopter of the long strength concept. Ori developed a weight training system that he called, “Controlled Fatigue Training.” According to Ori, this type of training was specifically designed to develop these super hybrid muscles-ones that were capable of generating and sustaining strength for extended periods.
NN: How would one go about building this super hybrid muscle fiber?
MW: For starters, you can look to the ancient warrior cultures-the Spartans, the Vikings and the Gladiators-and learn from them. Remember that all of the training they did was in preparation for the battles ahead. In other words, they were training for functionality rather than aesthetics, meaning that their training routines would have incorporated activities that simultaneously developed both strength and endurance.
Today, to build Hybrid Super Muscle we can start by engaging in aerobic activities that have a strong element of resistance.
NN: That reminds me, you wrote a report called, The Warrior Physique. What’s that about and where can the readers grab a copy?
MW: That was a fun one to write. Having a Swedish background I’ve always been interested in the Viking culture.
It’s no secret that our ancestors were physically, in much better shape than overall, we are today. For ordinary people, their day-to-day lives were much more physically demanding than ours. Back in the day if you wanted to eat you had to go hunting or catch some fish. Everything was functional. In today’s world most of us are subject to the triple seated threat as I like to call it-sitting at our computers, sitting in the car or sitting on the couch.
In this report we’ll explore how some of this planet’s all-time greatest elite warriors of the past developed some legendary physiques.
NN: So, does this all mean you have a problem with cardio machines?
MW: Not really. If you want to add some resistance to your cardio machines just put the treadmill on an incline. There are numerous ways to make cardio machines “hybrid”.
There’s nothing wrong with regular cardio on exercise equipment. I just think training the hybrid way can be a big time saver. I mean who has time to do a 45-minute workout with the weights just to go pedal on the bike for an additional 45 minutes.
I live in Florida so I’m fortunate that I can go for a walk outdoors any time I want. Sunlight and fresh air can do some wonders for your hormone levels.
Cardio machines have their place. Hybrid cardio just provides a faster more entertaining alternative for some people.
NN: How did you wind up partnering up with Pro Strongman Elliott Hulse in creating this system?
Elliott’s an awesome guy. We’ve become really good friends. I like that we have similar values and he’s someone I can count on.
A while ago I tweaked my back doing some powerlifting and I knew Elliott owned a sports training gym in St. Pete, FL. I paid him a visit and he helped me rehab my back.
We just had a lot in common. We actually played football against each other in college without knowing it and we both compete in strength sports.
The thing we really had in common is that w had both put on some un-needed body fat during our quest for strength. (Okay a lot.)
We both wanted to lose fat extremely fast, but didn’t want to sacrifice one ounce of muscle or strength. We knew this was going to be a challenge and something that most people would say is impossible.
Elliott is a beast. I think it’s good that I’m there to tone him down sometimes. He’s the outspoken motivational coach and I’m more laid back and shy at times.
NN: I’ve seen videos from Elliott’s underground gym. If someone is going to do the Lean Hybrid Muscle program, do they need all that fancy strongman equipment?
MW: Nope. That’s a common misconception. We’re fortunate to have access to a lot of cool training tools but I don’t expect someone living in a NYC apartment to store a 600 pound tire…lol.
If the weekly workout includes any specialty equipment there are always exercises that you can substitute or swap out.
NN: What about a gym membership…is this a gym workout or a home workout?
MW: It can be either. There’s a big trend, where people are trying to save time and money by working out at home. Some people simply prefer training outdoors.
Personally I do some workouts at home and some at the gym. You can do this program at the gym, at home or a combination of the two.
NN: Mike, your results were pretty amazing. Do you guarantee this is going to work for everyone that tries it? In 8-weeks you dropped 12% body fat and stayed the same weight. The pics look like night and day. And dude, what’s up with the swimmers cap and speedo, we didn’t need to see that!
MW: Haha. First of all, that thing in the background is a Bod Pod and it took my bodyfat measurement. They made me wear the hat and the speedos….trust me I’m not a fan of that picture either and it definitely motivated me to make a change!
Do I guarantee results? No, I don’t. I have no control over whether or not you’ll do the workouts. Whether or not you’ll get the sleep you need and supply your body with the fuel it needs to transform.
Plus everyone is different. I’m not going to say this is the only way to train. I just know that it worked wonders for me. It worked for Elliott. And it worked for dozens of his clients at his gym. Will it work for you? Probably. If you get even half the results, would you be happy?
NN: How is Lean Hybrid Muscle Training different than Cross Fit, some of the videos look similar?
MW: Cross Fit is a great training style. I respect the discipline and think they have some great workouts. From what I’ve read about Cross Fit it focuses on stamina, flexibility, speed, agility, balance, cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, coordination, and accuracy.
The rest intervals are very short and the workouts are fast and often. What I like about Cross Fit is that it incorporates resistance cardio which I’m all for.
However I had a goal of not just dropping weight and fat, but also wanted to build muscle mass and build my strength.
Sure, Lean Hybrid Muscle Building and Cross Fit may use some of the same exercises but they are done with different rest periods, volume and intensity. Just like a bodybuilder and a powerlifter may both perform the bench press, but how they perform that lift is very different from each other.
Lean Hybrid Muscle Building is cross-disciplinary like Cross Fit but it has a much greater emphasis on gaining strength and muscle mass than Cross Fit does.
In summary Cross Fit is an excellent training program that can produce great results, but I think it’s better suited for goals of conditioning, toning or developing agility, speed and endurance. If that’s your goal, go with Cross Fit.
On the other hand, if you want to get lean while building strong powerful muscles than Lean Hybrid Muscle Building is a clear winner in my book.
NN: If you had access to any equipment, what would your 3 favorite hybrid exercises be?
1. Well I love kettlebell circuits.
Similar to EDT by Charles Staley I try to make it through this circuit five times. Next time I do the workout, I want to beat my previous time. This is great for conditioning. For this is resistance cardio at its finest. It’s a nice break from my heavier strength building days to avoid overtraining.
KB Snatches: 5 reps per arm
KB Clean & Press: 5 reps per arm
KB Lunges: 5 reps per leg
KB Squats: 10 reps
KB One Armed Rows: 10 reps per arm
KB Two Handed Swings: 20 reps
Remember you have to make it through this 5x’s so don’t start off with a really heavy kettlebell.
2. Tire Flips
If there ever was an exercise that trains the entire body, from your ass to your elbow, it’s tire flipping. Getting your hands on one is easier than you think. Tire companies have to pay to get rid of them so they’ll be glad to give them to you. Storing them is another issue though.
3. Sledge Hammer Slams
Nick I know you’re into using heavier weight when you train your abs. Well this is a killer. This exercise helps build explosive torso strength and power. To do this exercise you’ll need a sledgehammer and a large tire (not on the rim), bales of hay or something similar to hit. Don’t use something with enough bounce to cause the sledgehammer to come back up and hit you in the face. Work your abs and get a cardio session in at the same time.
NN: What about Hybrid exercises for the gym?
1. Do the same kettlebell circuit above but use dumbbells instead.
2. Dumbbell Farmers Walk. No rocket science here. Just pick up a heavy pair of dumbbells and go! Great for the traps, grip, stability and core.
3. Dumbbell Overhead Walks. Grab a pair of dumbbells, hold them over your head with your arms almost locked out and start walking. Think this isn’t challenging enough? Try doing lunges holding the dumbbells over your head.
The cool thing about these exercise is they can be used either as hybrid cardio at the end of a regular workout instead of the treadmill, or they can be the workout if you increase the weight and adjust the rep ranges and rest intervals. The possibilities are endless.
NN: Did your wife really call you fat?
MW: Not really, kind of. I started getting some looks when I would head to the fridge late at night. It didn’t take a genius to get the point. Especially since I had placed my Bod Pod pic on the door to the freezer.
NN: Okay I have to ask this. People have been emailing me saying it’s impossible to burn fat and build muscle at the same time. It all comes down to calories in versus calories out. You’re either gaining or losing but you can’t do both. Care to elaborate?
MW: Ummm I’d like to buy a lifeline. Call a friend? Seriously though that’s exactly what I did. I called my friend Eric Talmant who’s a diagnostic nutritionist, metabolic typing advisor and powerlifter.
I knew I had personally experienced adding muscle while dropping fat when I was playing football in college. I couldn’t really explain how, but I thought Eric might be able to answer the question for me.
I asked him, “Is it physically possible to build muscle and burn fat at the same time?” I was pumped when he explained in his interview that it was.
He said that you can keep your body in an anabolic state by creating the perfect internal and external environment through attitude, atmosphere, training, sleep, stress levels, and nutrition. Calories are just one piece of the puzzle and not the entire picture.
NN: How come you don’t just do a bulking season where you pack on muscle and than do a typical cutting cycle to burn off the fat and reveal the new muscle?
MW: Instant gratification maybe. I wanted everything at once. I wanted to recreate what I was able to do in college. I’ve tried bulking and cutting. I wound up getting strong and fat when bulking up only to get lean and weak when dieting.
NN: Okay Mike, this worked for you, but what if you’re just a freak. I mean who benches 315 for 15 reps and still tries to burn fat at the same time? Do you have any other “average Joe” success stories?
MW: I’ll take that as a compliment. I’m not a freak, I’m just extremely stubborn, persistent and determined. Things don’t come easy for me, but when I make up my mind that I want to accomplish something I can usually do it.
I’m also pretty open minded and don’t accept that something isn’t possible just because someone said so.
As for some other clients maybe the video below will motivate some people.