Thanks for the great response everyone! Here are some of the questions you asked!
“What would be the best type of program to build strength? Like what sets and reps do you recommend, etc. I’ve been doing 5×5 currently and I always see progress with that one.”
There is no magic rep/set scheme. You can 5×5 your whole life on deadlift, but if you have a weak point that training the deadlift directly itself won’t fix, then tweaking the rep/set scheme won’t help. Strength is an art, not just math. Actually it’s art AND math. Do you really need 5 sets of 5? Maybe 4 sets of 5 would work better!? 5×5 works for you for now, but don’t get attached to anything in particular, everything is phases based! So pay attention to what happens everyday, every rep, every session and how your body responds and changes, so you can change the numbers and exercises too! And after awhile your instincts will be so honed you won’t even need to ask “how many!”
What’s the best plan for getting as strong as possible while training martial arts (Judo)? Obviously conflicting interests but regardless what’s are some thoughts?
Depends on whether the strength is FOR Judo, or just something you want alongside your Judo training. If the strength is for carryover, you need to work backwards from the movements most demanding in that martial arts. I would guess pulling strength and lower back strength would be #1. You could also look to see what isn’t important (IE – the bench press and overhead press wouldn’t be priority there it seems).
If your goal is to build strength generally, alongside Judo practice, then the first and most important thing you need to do is prioritize Judo by scheduling it during the time of the week you’re most rested. In general, you always put the most technically demanding training during the time of week you’re most well rested.
“Aye man, Id love to hear your thoughts about the best frequency in bench press training… also what are the best accessories to improve bench press in your opinion? It has been nearly a year since last time I saw progress in that lift so… thank you for your attention!”
Frequency changes week by week, year to year, always. And it’s subject to intensity/volume too! Sometimes a “higher frequency” works better, sometimes a “lower frequency” works better. What works for me won’t work for you always. Everything is personal, and personal always changes. What works now won’t work later, and what never worked before, might start working now. Everything is phases based, so don’t try to figure out what “the best” is, figure out what “the right” choice NOW is. What matters is NOW! Also the best accessories are the ones that target your weak points. That’s personal too! Are you failing at the top of the lift, middle, or bottom? Figure that out first and then choose accessories based on that. Maybe your arch sucks, some mobility would help. Believe it or not, a big back will help you bench press more. Powerlifts are complicated lifts with a lot of moving parts. The approach I think you should take is to hone your intuition, pick somethings that seem like “the right” choices for right now, and do them NOW!
But, it would be nice to get your thoughts on how to recognize when you’re training too much or not enough. I’m constantly at battle with myself feeling that I might be training too much or too intense while at the same time feeling that I’m lazy for taking a rest day. What signs do you look for in over training and how do you control over training/diet when you’re trying to optimize aesthetics and performance?
Great question but difficult to answer succinctly or completely. I’ll give you a fun place to start though. Take the “intention,” “rigor,” “discipline,” blah blah blah that you usually put toward training, and instead put it toward recovery. Most people haphazardly “recover”, while putting all their thought and will into their training. One person I’ve seen do the exact opposite is Thor Bjornsson when he was preparing for the Arnold Strongman Classic in 2019 (which he won). Everything he did, everyday, was about recovery. Every meal was thought out and timed exactly. Every food he put in his body was intentional. Napping was prioritized. Everything in his life was centered around his body adapting. Ice baths, massage, relaxation, 10 minute walks after meals. He was in a perpetual state of recovery. By contrast, when I observed him train, it seemed short… 2 very intense sets of 2 reps of something very heavy, then maybe 2 accessory exercises for 2 sets of 10 each, almost seemingly half assed. Very low volume, but that was because even THAT was intentionally planned to enhance recovery. Exercise selection, number of sets, and rep selection were all decreased to the minimal amount needed to grow stronger. The least amount of work necessary to improve, that’s the goal. He just figured the best approach to do that was not thinking about the numbers first, but instead, focusing on recovery first. So try some of THAT, and build the volume back up in your reps/sets and stuff from there.
I often get mixed advice when it comes to resting between workouts (how many days before you hit a muscle again). For example, I see some people who recommend doing chest three times a week while others only do chest once a week.
It depends on how that muscle group responds and the goal. Some muscle groups respond better to more frequent work. Calves? Other muscle groups need longer periods of “do not fuck with me” until they are ready to go again. For me, that would be lower back or hamstrings. It’s different for everyone though. And sometimes to break plateaus you have to increase work load temporarily, or even decrease it (see above answer about Thor Bjornsson recovery style of training).
Is it really necessary to lift super heavy with low reps when in a fat loss phase? I’ve done three routines over the past year all with heavy weights low reps, and now I am bored and my body feels a little beat up (I am in my mid 30s). I’d really like to do a routine that has higher reps, lower weights, and maybe one that focuses on physique more than strength.
It’s not necessary to lift “super heavy” with “low reps” in a fat loss phase. No. However, truth is someone who can deadlift 200 kg for 10 reps is going to burn more fat than someone deadlifting 100 kg for 10 reps. In the world of physique transformation and sport, strength is king. You never want to give up on strength. However, many roads lead to strength improvements, and also, maintaining strength is approximately 4x easier than building it from my experience. So do you really need to lift super heavy with low reps in a fat loss phase? No, because you’re just in a phase and your strength will probably improve more if you take a break from it. But I think you should do some “super heavy” lifting in your fat loss phase. Try to keep 90-95% of your current 1 rep maxes on lifts important to you, and plan some workouts where you’d do something like heavy 3×3 and instead do 1×3 with the weight you’d usually do in a strength phase. Schedule heavy less often.
How about training programs for men over 50?
I’m not 50, I’m only 35, so take it FWIW: age IS NOT WHAT YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING AT. It’s training history, health history, goals, capacities, weaknesses, preferences, etc. If we were looking just at age, a fit 50 year old would be on a more rigorous training program than a very overweight, sedentary 25 year old. Focus on everything but your age when designing or choosing a program. 🙂
So my mom is 5’1 110lbs at 46 years old and wants to get into training and weightlifting to get toned. I have tried to come up with exercises to give her but I do powerlifting and I just have very little knowledge on how to train to look good rather than just training for strength. So my question is what exercises should she do to in order to achieve this goal she has set?
Fun question and I have a fun answer! Tell your mom to find a compromise between exercises she likes and exercises that are “tried and true” – you’re a powerlifter so you know what exercises are worth a crap. Deadlifts, squats, presses, lunges, rows, pulldowns or pullups – etc. Most people won’t argue that, in general, these exercises work. So have her try a bunch of stuff and see what makes her happy. The ones she doesn’t like, don’t do them. Does she want to do more weight and less reps? Then encourage her do that! Does she like high rep stuff and feeling a pump and a burn? Then encourage her to do that! Doesn’t matter in the beginning, because most things work when you’re a novice. She needs to find her innate strengths and preferences and build from those! That’s not only fun, but productive! Then, maybe 4 months later, start adding in some things she “needs” but doesn’t necessarily like that much. When she gets results from those, she’ll start liking them too! So first things first, she needs to get into the habit of training, not be on a results driven program she hates.
Any tips on making high rep workouts to not feel like cardio? Doing 8+ reps of squats (or other full body movements) absolutely destroy me even when the weight isn’t that heavy.
Cool question! First, some might wonder why you’d want to do high rep squats in the first place. Or high rep anything (20+ reps). The answer is phasing in this kind of work is good for building muscle, from my own experience. What I’d recommend is acclimating to higher rep sets by reserving it for isolation work first (quad extensions, hamstring curls, lat pulldown, etc). When it comes to compound lifts like squats for high reps, ensure you have longer rest periods when you start working this way. A 20+ rep set of squats to failure is brutal, if you’re doing anything after that (like another 20+ rep set) put at least 6-8 minutes of rest between them. Over time you’ll adapt and get better at it! FWIW, it’ll always kind of feel like cardio, but less so if you keep the weight up and the rest periods longer.
What kind of training do you recommend for someone who has a demanding job (such as in law enforcement)? I don’t get much time off, and I’d like to be as efficient with my workouts as possible. It’s just been difficult to get into any kind of routine.
Efficiency. That’s probably what you’re trying to get, right? First thing I’d do is look at everything in your life OUTSIDE of your training that can be made more efficient before you look at making your training more efficient. We waste a crap ton of time everyday sitting for minutes after meals, creating more work for ourselves by not cleaning up things as we go (dishes, laundry, etc). Tripping and encountering the same old problems day in and day out that eat minutes here and there. Eliminate bottlenecks in your day first and then begin recognizing any moment where you “linger” or “procrastinate.” More time = less stress = easier to get into and out of workouts. Then, during your workout, the best thing to start doing to make it more efficient is strict rest periods. For most of the work I do, 3:30 rest periods is my default. I increase to 5:00-6:00 minutes or more if I’m doing something really demanding like knee wrapped back squats. Strictly stick to a rest period scheme with an actual timer, throughout your whole workout, and you will most likely be able to get the job done in 45 minutes instead of 60 minutes. Saving time, but also making the workout more effective anyway.
How about growing stubborn body parts? For example, for me traps and forearms grow with minimal effort, but my chest never seems to grow despite focused effort on it. Perhaps some tips for those body parts that are notorious for being hard to alter? I know you’ve spoken about chest issues before too.
It’s just going to be more finnicky. My chest is no longer a weak point, but genetically, it defaults to weakness. If I stop training my chest it will shrink very quickly. What I had to find for myself was that barbell bench press was a waste of time for me, I stopped bench pressing for chest growth. Straight dips were also a waste of time for me, so I stopped doing those for hypertrophy work. Even dumbbell bench press is secondary importance for me. What really stimulated my chest to grow was dialing in how the muscle contracted on a chest fly machine, and using particular lever press machines. Dumbbell hex press as well. Figure out which exercises personally hit your weak points, jack up the frequency of your training those parts more often for a brief phase, and see what the response is. If you’re on the right track, then your next task is to determine, as close as possible, what the right amount of work is during any training window, and stop there. 2 or 4 sets of this exercise? Why can’t you get the job done in 2 sets? Why do you need 4? Ask why you’re doing this much or that or why this exercise or that? Where is the point of diminishing returns? etc. And finally, the order of exercises in a workout matters. The reason a lot of people have small chests is because they bench press at the beginning of a workout, wear themselves out, and then half ass chest “accessories” that really provide the best growth stimulus.
What do you think the best way to cool down is? Is cool down important? I’ve always thought so but not sure how best to do it.
Not common to get questions about cool downs so I’ll jump on this one. I think the best way to cooldown depends on the activity. How do you figure that out? Choose something that makes you feel “refreshed” and “normal” again the quickest. After flexibility work, walking is number one. Go walk for up to 10 minutes after flexibility work. After an upper body workouts, some light stretches that move in and out of ranges of motion with a band are great. After a leg workout, I prefer to pick one static stretch and spend a moment getting my muscles to loosen back up a smidge. So if my quads are pumped, a quad stretch. If my hams are toast, a hamstring stretch. If the workout was a full body athletic type of activity where the core temperature rose significantly, I prefer literally to “cool off” by getting in an icebath or cold shower for a few minutes. You’ll know the cooldown worked if you feel like can get onto the next part of your day sooner because of what you chose to do. Also, don’t stress too much about the cooldown, it’s not the most important part of a workout, and most athletes skip it anyway. But if you do include it, it can help segway into the rest of your day better which will improve your quality of life.
I was wondering if you think cycling on creatine was a good idea to help me get back in shape or if that added weight gain is not worth the effects that creatine can provide on training days?
Creatine is healthy, everyone should take it, even your sedentary grand parents. It’s got lots of functions in the body, it’s even a nootropic (healthy for the brain!) The weight gain is negligible but healthy as well since it’s not useless weight. However, Creatine alone won’t help you get back into shape. 🙂
I’m 46 now my training has been mostly impacted with being injured or strained. My biggest struggle right now is friggin tennis elbow, it’s brutal. My biggest question is how to train while injured / strained. Within that question is: how to maintain while recovering / healing? How to strengthen the affected area? How modify workouts around injury; what else can I continue to work on?
I wrote a book on Overcoming Training Injuries here:
I think it’s perfect for you. While a great deal of the book deals with the psychology of dealing with injuries, how to train around them, etc. There is a great deal of information in the book on how to approach ANY injury strategically. In a nutshell, the injury specifics do not matter, because the approach is always the same. Know how to approach them, and you can deal with any injury.
I have your Overcoming Training Injuries book and the information in it is super useful. I think any tips about longevity, consistency, or working with injuries and setbacks is so valuable and definitely appreciated. I am currently dealing with some tendinitis in my left arm from pull ups which is definitely a nuisance when it comes to grip and back work. But your shared experiences are helping me get through it.
Thank you so much! Speaking of tendonitis…
How do you deal and treat tendonitis? What prevention do you use to help keep it at Bay?
Well, you should try my injury book hah! Also, in tendonitis specifically, it’s a slow healing process. Just because it flairs up and goes away doesn’t mean it’s gone. Treat it like a sprain or a broken bone, because it takes just as long to recover (months!) even if it disappears seemingly completely within an hour after a flair up. It took a year for mine to stop getting aggravated. Avoid what causes it until it no longer aggravates, and when you resume training the things that cause pain, slowly build up volume and intensity in that kind of training to prevent it.
How did you fix your Bicep tendonitis? I’m not sure if you already covered this but I have tendonitis that is now in both of my arms. After a lot of looking around I’ve started doing extensor exercises and that seems to be helping but it still is taking a long time to fix.
I got a lot of injury questions this round! I’m not a doctor or a PT, and I can only speak for what I did. For biceps tendonitis I literally avoided what caused the problem, and avoided flare ups at all costs. Flares ups, to me, were the equivalent of a relapse. Treat it as seriously as you would any other injury. Two exercises that helped speed the healing were dead hangs from rings, and dynamic arm swings that built up in speed and intensity.
I’d say one thing I sometimes think about is what actually would work for me, program wise – At least when life gets in the way. I’ve found that a push-pull-leg focused workout works for me. But due to a randomly hectic and busy school schedule it sometimes gets stressful to balance that, a proper diet, eating enough, and training the way I want to. Part of me is considering to change to a less frequent program in those hard periods, because when diet or food intake suffers, it’s hard to reach the goals I strive for, whether it’s growing bigger, or lifting heavier. Another part feels that it’s a slight loss to have to go away from a program that I feel really works for me, and that also enables me to spend the time on a sport and hobby I truly enjoy.
Ultimately training is not your life, and your life cannot be just training (long term). Sure, 8 weeks out from the Mr. Olympia contest, as a bodybuilder, your entire life is about training. To get to that point though, the bodybuilder has had to spend years and years getting their life in order to even support such a demanding training schedule for just those 8 weeks! And do you think that athlete will go right back into the “pre-contest tunnel” right after the contest? NO! They will focus on other things in their life, building them back up, repairing relationships and letting their mind wander and recuperate from having spent so much time focused on one goal. Everything in life is periodized, not just training! Plan your peaks and valleys, there will be some times in your life when you can only work out 3 days per week, and others when you can work out 6. Plan things ahead so you can always make the most of your time no matter what phase you’re in intentionally or unintentionally.
How much grams of protein should I be eating per day to grow muscle. I hear anywhere from 1g to 2g per pounds. I can’t seem to get a straight answer anywhere I look.
Is it a different amount on training days compared to rest day? For example, I am 5 foot 9 and I weight 196 pounds, with about 10 pounds of fat I want to lose. Do I count from my current weight or my “lean” weight?
This is what I do: I eat 1 to 1.25 grams of protein per lb of total bodyweight per day. I’ve found anymore than that just makes me tired and doesn’t provide benefit. I eat the exact same amount everyday whether training or not. Same with fat, those are the same everyday for me. The only thing I move up and down calorie wise are my carbs. On non-training days I eat far less carbs. I do this because I’m not burning as many, but also it gives my digestion system a break so that on a training day when I consume more, my digestion system is ready to assimilate more of what I give it. How much food you consume isn’t as important as how much you absorb or use. Numbers matter, but so does a lot of other things. Anyway, I’d just recommend 200-220 grams of protein per day.
What’s your favorite part about working out that pushes you forward and motivates you?
Honestly, I don’t even know anymore! I just know that if I couldn’t do it, I’d be upset. Working out is a privilege, and I’m thankful I have the excess calories and time to do it and can make a living in part because of it!
… but with someone who suffers from depression and big anxiety attacks, I have an incredible hard time commiting to myself. What ways do you find motivation and drive to improve for yourself when you find your training to be going not as expected or lacking? In the gym and/or at home.
I can only speak for what helps me most personally, and that is creating unified order in my life. A quote I created for myself is “Is the house a mess because I’m depressed, or am I depressed because the house is a mess?” – By “house” I mean, pretty much everything in my life. Laundry, dishes, food, diet, workouts, gym, computer stuff, todo lists, accounts, relationships, priorities, messages, stuff, thoughts, ideas, playlists, schedule… Everything. All of it. It all has to work together toward one destination. The destination doesn’t even matter to me as long as it challenges me to grow and become better. So if you blew your life apart into a bunch of pieces, you’ll always find some pieces that are lacking or seem alien to the rest. Get rid of them, or find a way to connect them to the whole of whatever direction you’re moving toward. Don’t have a direction? Just pick one, you can always change it later, and usually you will change direction once you get moving. So get moving toward a direction that challenges you, start by cleaning something you’ve been putting off cleaning. You’ll feel better too. And that’ll build momentum!