Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Building the Bruce Lee Physique

Bruce Lee and Bolo YeungEnter the Dragon | 1973 
 
Q: I've recently stumbled across your blog, and it peaked my interest. I admire the physique you've built up for yourself. 

That's the reason I'm writing to you, because I'd very much like to know how you build muscle density. I don't wish to gain more muscle simply to be big. I'd like my body to have the look of strength, power and speed, much like how Bruce Lee was. I was hoping you could enlighten me on the ways in which one would need to train to build such a physique. 

Would you recommend weight training or training without weights? How much cardio would you recommend? In your opinion what level of balance should there be between developing slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers, and how would one change its proportionality? 

-S. Singh


My Answer: Muscle density refers to how thick and hard the muscles look and feel. Muscle density is developed through sarcomere hypertrophy. In other words, the muscle fibers grow by thickening in diameter. This is different from sarcoplasmic hypertrophy where your muscles grow from increased fluid retention.

How do you develop sarcomere hypertrophy? Heavy weight and low reps. Anywhere from 3-8 reps, with a target rep range of 4-6 reps being ideal.  Hence muscle density is really the development of the fast-twitch muscle fibers, not the slow-twitch.

So cardio is not the way to go if you want muscular density. If anything, you will lose muscular density, because cardio is based on low weight (or more accurately, low force production) and ultra high reps, the exact opposite training method.


The way I've built my physique is simple: heavy weight, high tension exercises.   I maintain a trim lean physique by training in such a manner and eating 3 meals a day.  When I want to gain more muscular size, then I'd eat 5 meals a day.


If you want to build the Bruce Lee physique, then you should practice some of his favorite training programs. When Bruce took up strength training to supplement his martial arts training, he did it so solely for the purpose of increasing what he called “real world power.”  The phenomenally ripped physique that he had was simply a by-product of all of his martial arts, strength and cardiovascular training.

Bruce experimented with all types of strength conditioning programs, but Bruce was fond of 2 training strategies in particular: circuit training and isometrics.

Circuit training is also known as “peripheral heart action” or PHA training.  PHA is the exact opposite of the traditional bodybuilding strategy of pumping or flushing a muscle.  In circuit training, you strive to circulate blood throughout the entire body rather than localized in one muscle group.  You do this by moving from one exercise to another exercise with little or no rest in between.  Typically you string together several exercises in a circuit, alternating between upper and lower body exercises.

Here’s an example of a circuit that you can use in the gym.  Go through the circuit 3-5 times, resting a minute or two between circuits:

  1. Pull-ups: as many reps as possible
  2. Squats: 10-12 reps
  3. Pushups: as many reps as possible
  4. Hang leg raises: as many reps as possible
The advantage of PHA training is that it will increase cardiovascular conditioning and your strength endurance. You will lose a lot of fat while maintaining or even gaining muscle.

Isometrics are simply static contractions where you hold a weight or press against an immovable object.  Isometric contractions produce great muscle tone and density but not as much muscular hypertrophy or size.  So if you want to be toned, but not big, then isometrics are great.  Two of the best body weight isometric exercises are the front lever:



the L-sit:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bodybuilding Out of the Box


We’re all born into a box.  You drive to work in a box.  When you get to work, you work in a box.  You think inside the box.  You come home and live in a box.  You eat of a box.  You even workout in a box. 

Some have bigger boxes than others.  What if you were in prison cell?  What if you worked in a submarine?  Or what if you just live in a cramped studio apartment?  How would you train?  How could you build a better body in a box?

A lot of people ask me how to train at home with limited equipment and limited space.  There are a number of reasons why people would want to train at home:

1) You save time. For a commercial gym, you have to drive to there and from there. For a home gym, however, your commute time is ZERO.

2) You can work out whenever you please. Whereas most commercial gyms have business hours, your home gym is open to you 24/7. So you have no excuse to miss a workout.  Since you can work out whenever you please in a home gym, you can work out multiple times throughout the day.  Shorter multiple workouts throughout the day burn more fat and develop strength more quickly than one workout a day.

3) You save money. Once you make the initial investment on the home gym equipment, that's it. No initiation fees. No membership fees. Many commercial gyms require initiation fees, which often cost as much or more than the cost to setup a home gym. By setting up a home gym, you save money in the short term and even more in the long term.

4) You get a better workout. How often have you worked out at a gym and waited for the equipment to be free? Do you think you're getting a good workout if you have to wait 5-10 minutes between every exercise? In your home gym, you don't have to wait. You don't have to put your workout on hold, because some screwball is curling a barbell inside the squat rack.

5) You have no distractions. There are no sweaty, obnoxious people in your home gym (unless you happen to be one).

6) You have privacy.  A lot of people are simply intimidated by the gym environment.  If you’re fat and overweight, then you may find it very discouraging to go the gym and see athletic bodies and people in incredible shape.  With a home gym you have some privacy and concentrate on yourself and not others.


If you have the money and space, then you can build yourself a pretty nice gym.  Let me make some suggestions to help you minimize the cost. First and foremost, always go with free weights. Machines are costly and take up a lot of space. Dumbbells and barbells, however, are versatile and can work every body part.  I suggest the following pieces of equipment for a home/garage gym:

·       A power rack for squats and pull-ups
·       An adjustable bench
·       An Olympic barbell
·       A pair of adjustable dumbbells
·       300 lbs. of weight (or however much weight you will need)
·       A calf block
·       Rubber matting for the floor



Now what if you had a smaller space to work out in?  This factor will determine your equipment purchases and exercise programs much more than price.  If you're living in a cramped studio apartment, then buy yourself some kettlebells, a pull-up/dip station and a set of resistance bands. Kettlebells complement calisthenics and can be used to add weight to pull-ups, squats and dips.  You can get a complete full body workout with just these three pieces of equipment and some bodyweight exercises: 

Calisthenics

Back and Biceps:
  • Pull-ups
  • Chin-ups

Chest and Triceps
  • Dips
  • Pushup variations
  • Handstand pushups

Quads:
  • Pistols (one-legged squats)
  • Lunges
  • Reverse lunges
  • Sissy squats

Calves:
  • One legged calf raise

Abs:
  • Hanging leg raises
  • Gecko plank

Mobility and Flexibility: Yoga

Conditioning:
Hill sprints, Jump rope
Kettlebell Exercises

  • Swings
  • Clean and press
  • Snatch
  • Windmills
  • Turkish get-ups

Resistance Bands

  • Band pull apart (mid back)
  • Face pulls (mid back, deltoids)
  • Upright rows (deltoids)


Here’s a minimalist program that you can use to build muscle with little equipment in tight spaces.  Since there’s minimal equipment and the equipment is portable, you can do these workouts outdoors if you wish.  Once a week I bring a 50 pound kettlebell to a pull-up station on a parcourse (fitness trail) in the City and do an outdoor workout of pull-ups, one arm pushups, pistols and kettlebell snatches.

Follow the Density Phase for 2 weeks, then switch over to the Decompression Phase for weeks 3 and 4.

Weeks 1-2: Density Phase
These are full body workouts.  Alternate between Workout A and B throughout the week, every other day:

Workout A
1.     Kettlebell windmill (2 sets of 5-8 reps, 1 minute rest period)
2.     Pull-ups (2 sets of as many reps as possible [AMRAP], 1 minute rest period)
3.     One-legged squat or Bulgarian squats (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
4.     Dips (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
5.     Kettlebell swing or snatch (2 sets of 5-8 reps, 1 minute rest period)
6.     Hanging leg raises (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
7.     One legged calf raise with weight in hand  (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 minute rest period)
8.     Band face pulls (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 minute rest period)

Workout B
1.     Turkish get-up (2 sets of 1 rep on each side, 1 minute rest period)
2.     Chin-ups (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
3.     Diamond pushups (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
4.     Kettlebell lunges (2 sets of 5-8 reps, 1 minute rest period)
5.     Kettlebell clean and press (2 sets of 5-8 reps, 1 minute rest period)
6.     Gecko planks (2 sets on each side, 1 minute rest period)
7.     One legged calf raise (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
8.     Band upright rows (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 minute rest period)
9.     Band pull apart (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 minute rest period)


Weeks 3-4: Decompression Phase
Alternate between Workout A and B throughout the week, every other day:

Workout A
1.     Kettlebell windmill (2 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
2.     Pull-ups with weight (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
3.     One-legged squat or Bulgarian squats with weight (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
4.     Dips with weight (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
5.     One arm kettlebell swing or snatch (4 sets of 5-8 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
6.     Band face pulls (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 90 second rest periods)

Workout B
1.     Turkish get-up (2 sets of 1 rep on each side, 2 minute rest periods)
2.     Chin-ups with weight (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
3.     Lever pushups (4 sets of AMRAP, 2 minute rest periods)
4.     Kettlebell reverse lunges (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
5.     Kettlebell clean and press (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
6.     Band upright rows (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 90 second rest periods)
7.     Band pull apart (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 90 second rest periods)


Monday, May 11, 2015

Chest Specialization Program



Q: I have really been enjoying your books and making great progress in the gym.  Recently just finished the 14 week mesocycle in Neo-Classical Bodybuilding, and I'm very keen to start on the body specialization as I have some weaknesses.

Just slightly confused how to plug these workouts into the density phase.  Are these workouts purely for density phases only?  For instance Chest specialization workout #2: Is that just one training session or added onto the T-boost workout? I guess using the specializations means I'll be training one more day a week? 

Thank you very much just slightly confused.

Hear from you soon, love the videos too. 

E. Pascale
UK


My Answer: Glad you like the books and videos. As far as the specialization workouts, they are to be used only as a density phase.  Chest specialization workout #2 is one training session.  Workout #3 is the T-boost workout in the chest specialization program.  The specialization programs that are outlined in the book are four workouts a week.

Hope that clarifies.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Lake Merced Workout

I like to do outdoor workouts every so often. Lake Merced has a fitness trail lining the north end of the lake.  I used to train clients at this spot.  Once a week I bring a 50 pound kettlebell to a pull-up station at Lake Merced and do a workout of pull-ups, one arm push ups, pistols and kettlebell snatches.

A fitness trail (a.k.a. parcourse) is a running course with exercise stations scattered at varying intervals.  It's a great way to get some fresh air and sun and combine strength calisthenics with cardiovascular work.

Here's a brutally effective circuit that I used to put my clients through.  The pull-up station at Lake Merced is located next to a downhill path, so we'd do hill sprints as part of the circuit.


The Lake Merced Workout:

  1. Pull-ups, as many reps as possible (AMRAP)
  2. Run downhill to the bottom, turn around and sprint up the hill as fast as you can
  3. Push ups, AMRAP
  4. Body weight squats, AMRAP
  5. Hanging leg raises, AMRAP
  6. Repeat circuit 2-4 more times





Thursday, April 16, 2015

High Tension Exercises on Kindle?



Q: Hello, I found your books site off an Amazon search and have several added to my Kindle.  I'm in the middle of one right now, and I'm enjoying it immensely.  I was really interested in the High Tension Exercises book but don't see it available yet as a Kindle book. Any idea if or when it will be???

I saw it available as an E-book from a separate site, but I am pretty sure my wife won't approve of me paying $25 for an E-book. :-(
 

Was just hoping it would show up on Kindle eventually???
 

Thanks in advance.
Scott M.




My Answer: Hey, who's the boss, you or your wife?  If you want to buy a $25 E-book, then buy it and prepare to sleep on the couch for a week.  It's worth the investment!  A man's got to have his hobbies.


All kidding aside, thanks for purchasing my Kindle books.  Strength and Physique: High Tension Exercises for Muscular Growth, however, will not be on Kindle.  The book goes over the same material in my previous books, but has the added info of the exercises.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mobility Work for Tactical Athletes

Q: I found your Return to Copland workout on line. I am a 41 yr old Lt. who is trying it. The workouts seem great so far. I'm looking for something to do on the off days. What do you recommend? Rest? Walking? Yoga?

Thank you,
Jimmy


My Answer: Any of those are fine.  I prefer doing mobility work on the off days.  The following are exercises that I recommend to all tactical athletes (law enforcement, military, fire, EMS).  Years of bearing the continuous load of your equipment (bullet resistant vest, duty belt) compresses your spine and constricts your torso movement.  This often results in lower back pain as well decreased thoracic mobility.

These mobility exercises will restore your range of motion.



Body weight Squats





Single leg RDL



Quadruped extension rotation




Arm thread 





Lying scorpion





Supermans





The Angled Neck Bridge





Side lying t-spine rotation with arm sweep


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Accommodating Resistance

Here are a couple of videos where I discuss accommodating resistance: