Dont know why this isnt an article or is it ??
Highlights from Charles Poliquin’s Certification
Program & Biosignature Modulation Seminars
by Bryan Krahn
Charles in Charge
Charles Poliquin isn’t really famous. He has no entourage, no paparazzi, he’s never dated Paris Hilton, and he appears to have avoided being pulled over in Malibu for DUI. But in the insular world of strength training, Charles is famous.
He’s known by Olympic coaches around the world as the go-to guy when a country wants a gold medal, and his international coaching resume of over 400 Olympians supports this. Poliquin is known throughout professional sports for producing faster, stronger athletes who spend less time on the injured reserve list. And finally, he’s famous throughout the bodybuilding world for designing innovative bodybuilding routines that bust stubborn plateaus in record time.
Charles has built himself a very lucrative business as an A-list strength coach, but now after 26 years of coaching he feels it’s time to share what he’s learned. So Charles has developed his own certification program based upon the strength training principles he’s learned throughout his career. To support it, he’s embarked upon the seminar circuit to spread the word. If you’re lucky, he’s coming to a city near you.
The purpose of this article is to give readers an idea of what Charles’s Level 1 certification course and Biosignature seminars are like, and pass along a few juicy nuggets of info along the way; basically, broad strokes and bullet points.
I can’t convey everything Charles teaches because, a) like other fitness professionals, Charles charges for his seminars and b) a large portion of the seminars involve hands-on, practical instruction. (This was always a sore point for me with other training certifications I’ve attained: you can read about performing a power clean from a textbook 'til you’re blue in the face, but how can you teach proper form until you can prove that you can execute proper form?)
Hopefully after reading this summary you’ll have learned at least a thing or two. But for the whole enchilada, please check out CharlesPoliquin.com for a complete seminar schedule.
Level 1 Poliquin International Certification Program
To ensure we were all on the same page in terms of ideology/terminology, everyone in attendance had to first complete a theory exam based on Poliquin’s Level 1 manual and score a minimum of 92%. We were also told that we’d be tested again at the end of Day 2 and would be evaluated one last time on Day 3 in the weightroom by the driven French-Canadian himself. (Upon hearing this, I made the decision to change my morning Starbucks to a Spike sandwich.)
Charles started off by outlining his expectations for a Level 1 Poliquin Certified Coach. He explained that the goal for a Level 1 graduate isn’t necessarily to be able to write a perfect training program, but to be able to differentiate between an effective training program and a poor one.
With that in mind, Charles dove right into what was the meat and potatoes of his course: an examination of what the primary strength training qualities are and how a strength coach could manipulate the loading parameters (sets, reps, rest, and tempo) to effectively target each strength quality.
The four strength qualities and corresponding sports that feature these qualities are:
Relative-Strength (gymnasts, high jumpers, speed skaters)
Functional Strength (sprinters, football skill players, baseball players)
Hypertrophy (football linemen, shot putters)
Strength Endurance (rowing, cross country skiing, swimming)
Although the material at times may have been a bit dry (usually the nuts and bolts of strength training are), Charles did go out of his way to pepper his presentation with plenty of interesting anecdotes, one liners, and helpful tips from his 25 years of coaching athletes. Here are a few examples:
â?¢ It’s much easier to make a fast, weak athlete stronger than it is to get a strong, slow athlete faster. So you wanna be fast? Choose the right parents.
â?¢ Hammer throwers are among the world’s best 30 meter sprinters. Unfortunately, at 35 meters they tend to have heart attacks.
â?¢ Studies show that the “core” is among the least trainable/improvable muscle groups in the body. Charles spends only 6-8 weeks on direct “core training” before relying on basic lifts like squats and deadlifts to train the core. Charles says that “core training” is largely championed by strength coaches who can’t get anyone strong, and the core training fad is one of the reasons Charles decided to start his own certification course.
You think this looks bad, wait 'til he asks you to spot him through a few forced reps…
â?¢ Compared to other pro sports, soccer is a good 45 years behind in terms of training methodology. Charles says that the players are too weak, too aerobically fit, and have no power. They do, however, deliver headbutts with a zeal that would make Goldberg proud.
Hopefully, no one will see me do this…
â?¢ Professional strength coaches need to be anal retentive with respect to program design as they have virtually no margin for error. While most lifters can train all year, pro athletes must make a year’s worth of gains in one off-season. For a bobsledder, that can be eight months, but for sports like hockey, an off-season is only 11 weeks. Charles’s co-presenter, strength coach Keith Alpert (who works with professional basketball players), often only has 6-12 weeks to get the next Shaq strong!
â?¢ A strength training program must be individualized. According to Charles, the Poliquin Principles work roughly 68% of the time. But strength coaches will always encounter exceptions to the rules and shouldn’t be afraid to ditch the principles and experiment. Dogma is for idiots.
â?¢ There’s no best workout. You have to change it up every 4-6 workouts. Use the 2% rule to gauge whether or not you’ve adapted: if you can’t add 2% to the load or one rep per set, it’s time to change things up.
â?¢ Never increase quantity at the expense of quality.
â?¢ Soreness is only useful as a gauge of a workout’s effectiveness when peaking.
â?¢ Don’t perform low reps too often, as they’re extremely taxing on the nervous system and adrenals. But in general, the longer you’ve been training, the lower your rep ranges should be. When you do perform low reps, always perform them first in the workout.
â?¢ You should try to train at the same time every day. Studies show that we’re strongest 3-4 hours and 11 hours after waking. For those with a real job who can’t adhere to such a schedule, simply get your priorities straight, quit your job, and train when you please. (Or do what I do: sleep at work! What’s the point in working if you can’t stick it to The Man?)
â?¢ The upper body requires more variety than the lower body in terms of exercise selection.
â?¢ With acknowledgments to Dave Tate, Charles stated that the program that got you benching 300 pounds isn’t necessarily the best one to get you to 400 pounds. Higher level strength gains often require more complex training methodologies. But if you’re a buck-fifty and struggling to get 185 off your chest, you probably don’t need a complicated rep scheme. Always choose the least complicated program necessary to produce results.
â?¢ Unloading every third workout is absolutely essential. Charles says his in-house clients gain strength an average of 57% faster than those training outside of his facilities. After much consideration as to why this difference exists, Charles concluded that under direct guidance it’s easier to determine when it’s time to cut back. It may seem more hardcore to always up the ante week after week, but the stats don’t lie: unload volume (not intensity!) every third workout.
â?¢ Canada and Norway are among the toughest countries with respect to anti-doping enforcement. In the pro sports ranks, the NFL is the toughest. Interestingly, major league baseball has a serious drug problem, but it’s not anabolics; it’s amphetamines! Apparently, baseball is so boring even the players have trouble staying awake.
â?¢ The use of chains is very effective in increasing strength in the extensors only (squat, deadlift, bench press). Flexors on the other hand (Scott curls, chin-ups), respond well to pauses to create tension.
Note: For that 150 pound kid with the 185 bench, for you, this is an example of an unnecessarily complex training method.
â?¢ Your workout should be one hour maximum. That’s 60 minutes, and that’s including your external rotators, transverse abdominus, flexor digitorum profondus, and whatever the hell else you like to tack on to the end of the workout. One hour, then stop. Any more than that and you’re making friends, not gains.
â?¢ Here’s one for that annoying personal trainer at your gym who has an aneurism whenever he sees your knee travel past your toes during a lunge or split squat: tell him to climb up a flight of stairs and see how often his knee travels past his toes.
Yes No Never
â?¢ Charles likes strength training routines that pair agonists/antagonists. Trainees tend to recover faster through nervous system activation, they can double the work done in a single training unit, and such routines tend to naturally balance agonist/antagonists. Yes, I know we all know that, but then why is it everybody at my gym still does chest on Mondays, back on Tuesdays, etc.?
â?¢ Forgotten exercises: the dumbbell power clean, the dumbbell power snatch, etc. Newsflash: they were forgotten for a reason!
â?¢ You can put this one in the “Believe It or Not” file. At one point, Charles asked to assess a volunteer’s flexibility. A gorgeous female powerlifter in fantastic shape was the lucky winner, and Charles had her perform several bodyweight full squats. She had great flexibility except when in her bottom-squat position, which Charles and Keith Alpert determined was due to a tight gluteus medius.
Charles then had her lay across a table and began working on the fascial structures of the face (yes, you read right), after which he and Keith retested her flexibility and her squat. It was noticeably improved.
Charles explained he has mapped out the muscles and fascia of the face and how they innervate to the lower body and discovered the connections. I could probably explain the process a little better had I not dropped my jaw on the floor.
On Day 2 of the course, I was admittedly starting to wonder where all this was going. We’d covered what the strength qualities are and how to target them, but it all seemed somewhat academic. What we needed was something to tie it all together, and Charles didn’t disappoint.
We began to look at different client scenarios and discussed possible training recommendations using the material we’d just learned. The exercise served to breathe life into the material and made sense of what had just been a lot of theory. Charles wrapped the discussion up by presenting one of his own training programs that he designed for US Olympic thrower Adam Nelson.
Adam is incredibly strong and obviously a genetic freak, and while it might have been more useful for us to see a program for someone a little more ordinary, it was still fascinating to see the type of problems a coach encounters when working with someone so gifted.
Day 2 concluded with the dreaded technical exam. The exam consisted of five training programs, each with a specific training goal, and our task was to evaluate whether the programs were up to snuff or not using what we’d learned over the course of the past two days. Pass was 92%. I’d tell you how well I did, but unfortunately, I’m still waiting!
Day 3 of the course was (ugh) more testing, but this time it was the hands-on practical evaluation portion. After a brief classroom orientation, it was off to the gym.
Those of you familiar with Charles’s work will know that he’s given serious consideration to the concept that an athlete’s training program must strive to achieve structural balance. In a nutshell, Charles has determined optimal strength ratios for a number of lifts that he uses to determine what a training program should focus on. Using the close-grip bench press as the “Mother Lift,” the following represent optimal strength ratios:
Close-Grip Bench Press
Relative score: 100%
Incline Barbell Press
Relative score: 91%
Relative score: 87%
Relative score: 66%
Scott Barbell Curls
Relative score: 46%
Standing Reverse Curls
Relative score: 35%
External Rotation SA*
Relative score: 9.8%
*Done for eight reps
For the testing, Coach Poliquin had students break up into small groups and each group was assigned two primary lifts to test our 1RM strength and two remedial lifts to determine our 8RM strength. Charles and his staff evaluated students on their abilities to safely test the lifts, while ensuring subjects maintained perfect form.
Despite the high pressure atmosphere of the testing, there were some interesting and amusing occurrences:
â?¢ Charles is extremely particular about maintaining proper form. All tested lifts had to be performed with a 4010 tempo, and any deviation from that meant a missed rep.
â?¢ Coach Poliquin is equally particular about spotters maintaining proper form. At one instance, a guy spotting bench presses was leaning in a little too far, at which point Poliquin stopped the test and barked: “When you spot a guy, it’s extremely important that you stay out of the lifter’s field of vision. You do not, at any time, try to rest your nuts on the other guy’s forehead!” Classic!
â?¢ When 1RM testing the core lifts, Charles has athletes perform a slow, progressive warm-up:
4 @ estimated 40%, rest 10 seconds
4 @ estimated 40%, rest 10 seconds
3 @ estimated 60%, rest 30 seconds
2 @ estimated 75%, rest 60 seconds
1 @ estimated 80%, rest 120 seconds
1 @ estimated 85%, rest 120 seconds
1 @ estimated 90%, rest 180 seconds
1 @ estimated 95%, rest 240 seconds
1 @ estimated 100%, rest 240 seconds
It seems somewhat excessive, doesn’t it? Sure, Charles has preached about nervous system activation following multiple, low rep sets shy of failure for about 60 years now, but how many of you have actually tried a build-up like this when testing a 1RM?
We all performed this progression, and the effect was nothing short of amazing! By set six or seven the weight suddenly felt “light,” and hitting PRs in each lift was a breeze for most of us. Next time you’re dying to find out your 1RM, follow the above progression. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
â?¢ Charles is very no-nonsense in the weightroom. He’s also very no-music in the weightroom. When we first walked into the downtown Toronto fitness facility to begin our testing, we were treated to a never ending remix of Fergie’s “London Bridge.” At first Charles tried to talk over the sultry songbird, but after about the 18th time she squealed “London London,” Charles’s face turned a curious shade of purple.
Perhaps sensing the possibility of witnessing his stereo being hurled out the 36th floor bay window, a gym attendant quickly killed the Fergie.
One artist whose videos are best viewed on mute…
â?¢ Charles has forearms like bowling pins. They’re absolutely ridiculous in person, making Popeye’s look like Bill Gates’s. While in the gym, I asked him how the hell he grew those puppies, to which he replied, “Well, I like to masturbate a lot.” Actually, he attributed them to years of training with a thick barbell, but I like my answer better.
All in all, the practical portion of the course was definitely enlightening. There’s something to be said for putting theory into action, and it was quite obvious who in attendance had more experience under the bar versus inside the classroom.
After three days straight of lectures and testing, we were all ready for a few giant sets of pizza, wings, and Heinekens. But as much as I longed to add a few millimeters of Molson Muscle, our journey wasn’t over: tomorrow marked day one of Poliquin’s Biosignature Modulation Seminar. That meant skinfold testing, so beer and pizza would have to wait.
Biosignature Modulation Seminar
In a nutshell, Biosignature Modulation is a system Poliquin developed over the course of 20-plus years of taking clients’ skinfolds and comparing the results to what their bloodwork revealed about their hormonal status.
Poliquin says that with Biosignature Modulation, a skilled trainer needs to just measure twelve specific skinfolds to reliably predict what’s going on hormonally inside a client and make the necessary dietary and exercise recommendations. While some may still cry “voodoo,” Charles says Biosignature Modulation is now being embraced by North America’s functional medicine practitioners.
I’ve known about the Biosignature Modulation system for a few years, but wanted to get a bit more information before I bellied up to the bar and sipped the Poliquin Kool-Aid. One thing that always bothered me about B.M. is that it appears to give clients an “easy out” for making piss-poor lifestyle choices. Meaning, an overweight guy with significant abdominal fat can now whine that it’s stress-induced cortisol that’s giving him a pot belly as opposed to that half-pound bean burrito combo he eats for lunch every day.
But in retrospect, that kind of thinking is a strawman argument. Biosignature Modulation isn’t intended as a substitute for basic sound dietary practices (multiple feedings, protein at each meal, EFAs, fiber) but rather it’s a means of fine tuning the basics by identifying potential roadblocks.
Many people have hormonal issues that make their fat loss efforts more like a Rubik’s Cube than a blueprint for success: poor insulin sensitivity, low androgens, a sluggish thyroid, estrogen imbalances, etc. Biosignature Modulation allows the trainer to spot these pitfalls and make appropriate changes without having to send the client off for inconvenient, expensive blood tests.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the sites and what elevated levels vs. the triceps may reveal about what’s going on inside:
Chin & Cheek â?? The first sites to go down during a diet. These sites aren’t linked to any particular hormone imbalance.
Pectoral & Triceps â?? The androgen sites. High pec readings in men in relation to the triceps can reflect an androgen/estrogen imbalance. Interestingly, Charles says a female who clocks in at less than 5mm on the triceps site is almost a shoe-in to be on AAS and likely rides a stationary bike as foreplay.
Suprailliac & Subscapular â?? The insulin sites. These sites are related to blood sugar management. High readings here vs. the triceps may reflect poor insulin sensitivity and carb intolerance.
Mid-axillary â?? This site is correlated to thyroid hormone levels. The lower the number, the better the thyroid.
Umbilical â?? The much maligned cortisol site. It can be high despite low overall body fat.
Knee & Medial Calf â?? These skinfolds are related to growth hormone. Interestingly, readings on the knee site tend to go up in the third and fourth week of a fat loss diet and then go back down.
Quadriceps & Hamstring â?? High levels here vs. the triceps are correlated to high estrogen levels.
The balance of the seminar was spent identifying exactly where each site was and obtaining a correct skinfold pinch (not always an easy task!) Then for each site Charles suggested training, diet, and supplementation programs to implement when encountering an abnormally elevated skinfold. But Charles is prone to tangents, so there was a lot of additional info along the way:
â?¢ Charles likes supplemental HCL… a lot! He says taking supplements is useless if you’re deficient in HCL.
â?¢ If your urine reeks after eating asparagus, congratulations! You officially have a genetic defect and can’t methylate asparagine properly. Apparently, prevalence of this defect is on the rise in the US and is a red flag for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers, and prostate cancer amongst others. Try jacking up your methyl donors such as folic acid and B12 to turn off that gene.
â?¢ Prostate cancer is something virtually every guy will have to deal with, provided he lives long enough. Currently, urologists are focusing on DHT as the main culprit, and as such prescribe Testosterone lowering meds or even orchidectomy (neutering!) as means of controlling the spread of the disease. Charles is steadfast against such an approach, saying that it’s estrogen, not DHT, that’s responsible for prostate cancer.
His suggestions for those with elevated PSA levels (a red flag for prostate cancer, although there’s much controversy surrounding that particular connection) is lots of vitamin B6/B9/B12, resveratrol (REZ-V), and DIM.
â?¢ Got dark circles under your eyes? That’s a tell-tale sign of an overstressed liver, or that you just fell off The Killers tour bus.
â?¢ Charles has never seen normal zinc & magnesium levels in a hard training lifter. To prove his point, he had all attendees take the liquid zinc tally test. Those who have normal zinc levels would taste something like a tin foil smoothie, whereas those who are zinc deficient would taste nothing.
In our group of four, only one guy tasted the zinc. And while the rest of us all train regularly, our group’s taster tends to follow the Menstrual Training Cycle (3 days on, 28 days off).
â?¢ Charles on the American food pyramid: “If you want to look like a pyramid, eat like the pyramid.” 'Nuf said.
â?¢ Most hardgainers are the way they are because they constantly tell themselves that they’re hardgainers. They’re also often the most OCD people you’ll ever encounter. Charles’s remedy for hardgainers is to first eliminate all negative self talk and then 1) verify the calories, 2) verify HCL levels, 3) add BCAAs during workouts, and 4) increase calories by 50% every five days.
â?¢ Veganism is retarded.
â?¢ Fish oil isn’t a supplement; it’s a staple. It’s the first recommendation Charles makes to obese clients as it gets them leaner without making any other changes in terms of diet or energy expenditure. According to Mauro DiPasquale, every disease known to man can be helped by taking fish oil… and yes, Charles has checked. Make sure you take 400 IU of vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) for every 10g of fish oil you take.
â?¢ While many organic nuts offer a nice complement of fats, peanuts should never appear in a fat loss diet.
â?¢ Got milk? You probably got acne, too. Dairy, along with excessive insulin, can lead to problem skin. Organic raw milk is okay.
â?¢ Stay away from flax seed oil! It’s rarely stable (to date, Charles has only found two brands of stable flaxseed oil in the US) and it will only help get you leaner if you’re already lean. Stick to fish oil for your omega 3’s. That said, Charles does recommend fresh ground flax seeds, as the lignans bind with estrogen 4 and 16 (a.k.a. the bad estrogens).
â?¢ You know that George Foreman grill your Mom bought you back in ‘96 when you first moved out of your parents basement? It’s time for that lean mean grillin’ machine to follow Mr. Foreman into retirement.
Charles says over time they leak titanium. In general, Charles isn’t much of a heavy metal fan as an excessive consumption of them can lead to an impaired thyroid. Lest you think he’s being a little melodramatic, a 1% drop in thyroid output leads to a 6% drop in metabolic rate.
â?¢ Alcohol vs. Testosterone concentrations? What? No one cares? Okay, next topic.
â?¢ The “fact” that saturated fats impair insulin sensitivity is a myth! It’s saturated fats plus high glycemic carbs that’s the problem.
â?¢ Oh, so you want to know the verdict on alcohol vs. Testosterone? Well, here’s a newsflash: moderate consumption (a glass or two per night) of red wine has no effect on Testosterone levels, nor does it raise estrogen levels. In fact, a glass or two a day of your favorite red is extremely healthy due to its resveratrol content, and the wines highest in resveratrol are Pinot Noir and Merlot.
According to Charles, the worst alcohol to drink is beer, and the worst beers to drink are the imports that are brewed domestically like Amstel and my beloved Heineken. Since Charles didn’t really expand on that point, I’ll simply just close my eyes and plug my ears.
â?¢ Yet another newsflash! Soy is for dorks! Well, if you’re white that is. Asian people can absorb 96% of the soy they consume, while for Caucasians it’s a paltry 16%.
Same diet, different results…
â?¢ Should I take calcium with my magnesium supplements? Never! Those on a high protein diet have no need for a calcium supplement anyway.
â?¢ Ever wonder how your buddy can snort ephedrine like Al Pacino in Scarface and go to sleep while 25mg at breakfast has you cleaning out the garage at 4 AM? According to Charles, a stimulant’s range of effect between individuals can vary 1:24.
Say hello to my little friend…
â?¢ Speaking of stimulants, Americans drink a lot of coffee; Canadians, even more so. That’s bad right? Not necessarily. Charles says two to four cups a day of coffee is fine as for many of us coffee is the only form of bitter herb that we consume on a regular basis.
Moderate consumption of coffee also has positive effects on the liver. However, coffee is one of those foods that’s extremely important to choose organic. Oh, and if you’re bored on weekends and wanted to perhaps give yourself cancer? Drink decaffeinated coffee.
â?¢ What you eat first thing in the morning has an influence on mental acuity for the rest of the day. For this reason, Charles likes proteins rich in tyrosine at breakfast (hello, steak and eggs!)
â?¢ Blood type eating? Metabolic typing? While some of these constructs may have some merit, the easiest and most efficient way to test if a food “works” for you is simply to eat it and evaluate your mental acuity an hour later.
â?¢ If you’re one of the millions who likes to eat breakfast from a cardboard box, Charles has some interesting info for you. A rat study on breakfast cereal revealed that rats fed organic cereal actually had shorter life spans than those fed just regular cereal.
Amusingly, after the study was complete, the researcher decided to see which group would live longer: rats eating cereal or rats left only empty cardboard cereal boxes to eat. The winner? You guessed it. You’re better off eating Lucky the leprechaun.
â?¢ Sleep has a huge impact on your ability to lose fat, gain muscle, and enjoy a good quality of life. Sleep affects literally every hormone in the body including growth hormone, insulin, androgens and cortisol.
The advice they’ve been touting for years still applies: get to bed earlier (before midnight), wake up at the same time every day, and sleep in as dark a room as possible with very little noise. And yes, higher training volumes create greater sleep demands. ZMA is very helpful in this regard, providing HCL levels are up to snuff.
â?¢ Fat cells store environmental toxins. Dieting causes fat cells to release these toxins. If you’re dieting, take a good quality multivitamin. What constitutes a good multi, you ask? Albion chelated minerals, no magnesium oxide, no more than 7 mg of manganese, no copper or iron (if you’re a male), and no pictures of Fred, Wilma, Barney or even Betty (yum) on the bottle.
Charles wrapped up the two day Biosignature Modulation seminar with a half hour question and answer period. There was no shortage of tough questions for Charles, but he had an answer for every one of them, and many times an accompanying book reference as well.
Make no mistake, Charles didn’t pull Biosignature Modulation out of his ass like another kind of B.M. He certainly did his homework.
And In Summary…
Are Poliquin seminars worth the time and money? My answer is an unequivocal yes. Charles has a lot of information to share, and even if you’ve studied everything he’s ever written both online and in print you’re likely still missing an important piece or two of the puzzle.
I found the seminar invaluable for not only answering a lot of nagging questions I had, but more importantly teaching me to really see the big picture with respect to program design, which was something that I didn’t even realize I was missing.
There is of course the financial factor. The seminars certainly cost time and money. But one regular Poliquin attendee told me that he can’t afford not to go to Charles’s seminars. He says that for every seminar he attends, his training income doubles. You can’t argue with that!
Five days with Poliquin, 40-plus hours of lectures. Surely I must know it all now, huh? On the contrary, as it is whenever I attend a seminar with an industry leader, I left realizing there’s so much left to learn about weight training, nutrition, fat loss, and performance enhancement. Charles repeated several times throughout the week the need for all strength coaches to continue their education, and the big guy says no less than 16 hours a week of industry-related reading is a good place to start.
Sounds like good advice for anyone!