Showing posts from July, 2011

Working your Way Up to One Arm Chin-ups

It's been awhile since I've written a training article, but you can check out my latest piece in the September issue of Planet Muscle and Bodybuilding titled "Get Pro Level Muscle." The article lists my favorite set extension techniques for every muscle group. Pick up a copy the next time you're at a Barnes and Noble. I just came from Border's, and they're going out of business. Yeesh! Times are tough.

So I got asked on my YouTube Channel if the subscapularis pull-up could be performed on an assisted pull-up machine. Here's how I answered:

This is a very advanced pull-up variation, so you can only perform it if you can do 12-15 real pull-ups (not machine assisted). So I suggest weaning yourself off of the machine and work on upping your reps for real pull-ups and chin-ups. This will take some time.

Let me say that I flat out hate the machine assisted pull-up. For one thing, most people use way too much counter weight and make the exercise so ea…

Cardio or Not?

Hey I just got done reading your article "Hypertrophy Training For The Ectomorph: The 10-8-6-15 Program. I'm really excited in trying this method, but I was wondering if I should add any cardio to the workout plan?

Thank You,
T. Patel

My Answer: No you should not add cardio to this program. The program is meant to develop muscle mass in ectomorphs, guys who are incredibly skinny. If you add cardio, then you're adding a lot of physical work that

1) is not going to add any muscle
2) is going to take away muscle if you don't eat enough protein and calories

So ask yourself this, and be very honest: are you skinny or fat? If you're thin as a rail, then quit the cardio, because it's preventing you from gaining any weight. If you're fat, then you're NOT an ectomorph and you should be doing a different program.


Dear James,

Your blog is in my opinion the most interesting one that covers all things strength training. Thanks for all you do.

When I do deep squats, I always butt-wink (lumbar flexion when I go below parallel). Do you think this is a problem?

Thanks again,

My Answer: Thanks for the high praise, Ted. In short, yes. Lumbar flexion at the bottom of a deep squat is a problem. There are a lot of strength coaches who advocate deep squatting because that is the "proper" way of performing a squat. You develop more muscle when you deep squat as opposed to half squatting or squatting till your thighs are parallel to the floor.

Not everyone can deep squat, however, without rounding the back. Sometimes it's due to the height of the lifter or perhaps he's got a long spine and short limbs. Tight hamstrings, hips and glutes also contribute to lumbar flexion at the bottom of a deep squat. So it's a good idea to stretch these areas if you want to increase squat depth…

The Critical Drop-off Point

Q: My name is Dan. I'm an ectomorph. I weigh a "staggering" 101.2 lbs. I'm 5'2". My sleep duration is usually less than 8 hours. I'm a student nurse. My schedule is hectic. I can't eat 6x a day. Could you please give me some tips on what and how to eat?

I really liked the idea of following the 10-8-6-15 program. But how about the starting weight of the barbells and dumbbells? How heavy should the weights be as a start? I have been to the gym before, but I got frustrated. Your help will really be appreciated.

Looking forward to your reply. Thank you and more power.

P.S. I'm broke. I have no job. I can't really buy your book even though I wanted to. This is the only way for me to ask your help.

My Answer: It's not necessary to eat 6 times a day. What is necessary, however, is that you eat a lot of calories and protein. So if you can only fit in 3 meals a days, then just make sure they're 3 large meals. It is about total caloric intak…

Improving Relative Strength

I have enjoyed reading your book Strength and Physique. I really enjoyed that your focus was on strength. For too long I trained only my "mirror muscles", using as you put it "block head" programs. This lead to injuries and many weak links in the chain. I was wonder if you could help me with a few questions?

How would an athlete train to improve their relative strength and not gain size?

I want to increase the depth of my squat. Should I look at ankle and hip mobility?

Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you.

-Chris Barr

My Answer: If you want to gain strength but not any size, then block training would work well in this regard. If you want to get stronger in a particular lift, then you have to practice and practice frequently. That means doing an exercise repeatedly throughout the week. In order to practice the lift frequently, you have to reduce the volume to a low number of sets: 1-3. High frequency, low volume training is great for strength gains with mi…