Size vs. Cuts
Q: Iím 6 í2Ē, 218 pounds and 17 percent bodyfat at 25 years old. Iíve been bodybuilding for one year, and Iím caught in a dilemma: Should I drop now to a single-digit bodyfat percentage or not worry about a little flab and just go on and get massive? I plan to compete at about 235 to 240 at 5 percent bodyfat.
A: I am dead against the antiquated concept of bulking up, with weight as the sole goal. Lose the fat first, and then worry about gaining quality muscle. The practice of bulking up may in fact increase the number of fat cells, which you can later shrink only in diameter, not in number. Once the number of fat cells has increased, youíre always left with the potential of being fat. I strongly suggest you get below 10 percent bodyfat first. If you train properly, you can do it in seven weeks or so. Losing two pounds of bodyfat a week is quite realistic, particularly if you increase your intake of good fats. Also, use a wide array of insulin-sensitizing supplements, such as stabilized alpha lipoic acid, to increase your odds of gaining only muscle.
Q: I used to be fairly strong, incline-benching more than double my bodyweight, but I had to take a long layoff due to work commitments. I just got back to the gym, and Iím weak as a kitten. Pretty discouraging. What, in your opinion, is the fastest way to get muscle memory working? Mine seems like it has Alzheimerís.
A: Both training and nutritional tricks can help restore muscle memory faster. First, letís look at how you should rearrange your training. Eccentric training in its various forms will restore strength faster. You should alternate between the two types of protocols outlined below for about six weeks. Thatís all it should take to get your strength back.
Protocol 1: At the end of a conventional concentric four-to-six-rep-maximum set at 80 to 82 percent†of your one-rep max, perform some additional eccentric work. Add 25 to 30 percent to the poundage on the barbell and perform additional eccentric-only repetitions. As an alternative, a training partner can manually apply resistanceópushing down on the barófor eccentric work instead of adding weight. The negative repetitions will exhaust eccentric strength, which will help get the contractile proteins to return to their previous training size. You want to do eight total sets per bodypart, and make sure you rest four minutes between sets or two minutes between antagonistic pairs of exercises if youíre training in that manner. Each eccentric rep should take four to six seconds. Itís vital that you control the descent of the weight, or injury can occur.
Protocol 2. Use 120 to 130 percent of your one-rep max load, and do two to three reps for 10 sets, resting four to five minutes between sets. Take eight to 10 seconds for each lowering. On this day, use only one exercise per bodypart. That will help you retap the high-threshold motor units that were responsible for your big poundages.
Second, itís important to use the following nutrients:
Vinpocetine, 10 milligrams twice a day. Vinpocetine, extracted from Vinca minor, is an excellent vasodilator and cerebral metabolic enhancer, with apparent benefits for vascular-based cognitive dysfunction. I find it very beneficial in restoring muscle memory. I love it as part of any brain stack, as itís known as the gate openeróit enables other brain nutraceuticals to do their job. For example, it magnifies the effects of any stimulant. Ken Proefrock, a professor at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona, considers it a far better ďgate openerĒ than the compound hydergine.
Bacopa, 100 milligrams twice a day. Bacopa is a botanical with well-demonstrated anti-anxiety, anti-fatigue and memory-strengthening effects.
L-carnitine, six grams per day. It significantly reduces pain, tenderness and CK release after an intense workout, mainly because of its vasodilatation property, which both improves the metabolism of the hypoxic-damaged muscle and enhances washout of algogenic metabolites. Some people report difficulty sleeping when using L-carnitine after 4 p.m. Make sure you spread out your dosages. Also, be sure to take at least two grams postworkout.