Over the last year I received quite a few PMs with questions on how I train, my nutrition and carb cycling approach, supps, etc.
My schedule is pretty demanding and I rarely find the time to write long answers. Though I check T-Nation and my favourite threads almost every day (God bless the iPhone).
I thought I write a detailed “general” answer and post it here. So the ones who are interested can read it and I can refer to this thread and can even answer further questions in here, and the ones not interested can just ignore it.
I’ll start with my usual disclaimer: please don’t blame me for my bumpy English or any spelling mistakes. I’m still learning…
Here we go:
(A LITTLE) BACKGROUND
I started weight lifting over 20 years ago. The first 4 to 5 years I focussed completely on relative strength, the Olympic lifts, squats, deadlifts and heavy pressing. It wasn’t until my late teens that I got interested in bodybuilding and bodybuilding contests as well.
I did lots of martial arts (karate, kick-boxing, muai thai, jiu, judo…) on a competitive level for more than two decades, too.
Today, I’m primarily a bodybuilder, but I love all sorts of strength sports as well. I love to be poly-sportive and do/try many other sports as often as possible.
My last year was brutal, with surgeries, adversity striking my family and my mother who died in late '10. I won’t go into more detail here, but believe me, 2010 was brutal. I didn’t compete in 2010, but plan to step on stage again this autumn or 2012 at latest.
Currently, I do some kind of workout(s) every day. It’s tough, because I have a demanding job and work long hours and there are other obligations like community work, wedding planning, family, friends, etc. (well, “obligations” might not be a good word. Let’s call it other privileges).
Therefore, I do my first workout of the day at 6:15 am, which means I have to jump out of bed at 4:45 am.
I usually do a second workout later the day, like in my lunch break if possible or after work.
Here is what I am currently doing:
am: Chest (performance work) and Back
In this workout I do a lot of heavy chest work. Like:
A. Bench press, force spectrum ramp with 3 reps (sometimes wave loading or contrast training); 8 to 20 sets in total.
B. Top-half bench press from pins. 2 to 3 Clusters of 5 x 1 rep.
C. Chest circuit with 4-5 isolation movements and 12 to 15 reps each. 2 rounds.
I throw in a set of back work between almost every set of chest work. I do higher reps for back, don’t overly emphasise the eccentric part of the movement and do quite a lot of static holds. The back-part of the workout could look like this (staggered sets in between chest work):
A. Wide-grip pull-up: 5 reps with bodyweight up to bodyweight plus 220 pounds additional weight. 6 to 12 sets.
B. Dumbbell rows: 5-6 sets of 10 reps
C. High pulls: force spectrum ramp with 3 reps. 8-10 sets. Then reduce the weight and do 3-4 x 5 reps. And finally I do 2 sets with 8 reps and again approximately 20% less weight.
pm: Back eccentric less, mobility and flexibility work
I do a lot of volume here for back again. But I do sled work and some blast band work only.
I refer to Christian Thibaudeau’s writings to get an idea of how such a workout looks like.
After that, I do half an hour of foam rolling, mobility work and flexibility work (refer to Eric Cressey’s and Mike Robertsons “Magnificent Mobility” and their articles on T-Nation as well as Eric’s other books).
am: Legs, quad dominant
I do a lot of heavy squatting here. A workout could look like this:
A. Front squats: force spectrum ramp with 3 reps (often wave loading): 8 to 20 sets. Sometimes I back off and do 5 sets of 5 after the FSR and/or 2-3 sets of higher reps.
B1. Vertical jumps: 3 jumps
B2. Box squats or top-half squats from pins. 3-5 times 3-5 reps, no rest, then
C. Dumbbell Bulgarian spilt squats: 2 to 3 sets each leg with 8-10 reps
D. Dumbbell Siff squats: 3-4 sets with 12 to 15 resp
pm: Legs eccentric less
Again sled work and a lot of foam rolling, stretching, mobility work
am: Core and conditioning training
I do circuits with 4 different core exercises. The first circuit targets the rectus abdominalis (hanging leg raise, Swiss ball crunches, crunches, reverse crunches).
The second circuit focuses on rotation (I do exercises like Pallof presses, low-pulley trunk rotations, twisted planks, etc.). The third circuit consists of “stability” movements like Swiss ball roll-outs, Turkish stand-ups, walk-outs, dumbbell overhead side bends, etc.).
I do 2 of these circuits for 2 to 3 rounds each. After every completed circuit, I do 200 rope jumps and take no rests for the entire workout.
pm: Neural charge workout
You’ll find a lot of information about this on T-Nation!
am: Pressing (performance workout), emphasis on overhead pressing.
Something like this:
A. Push press: force spectrum ramp with 3 reps for 8 to 10 sets.
B. Seated fat-bar overhead press: 4-5 sets, ramped, for 5 reps
C. 4-step dumbbell press: I start with seated dumbbell presses for 5 reps, take 10 seconds rest and do 5 reps of high-incline dumbbell presses with the same weight, 10 seconds rest, then 5 reps of low-incline dumbbell presses with the same weight, 10 seconds rest and finally 5 reps of flat bench dumbbell presses. I do 2 rounds of this.
C. Shoulder circuit with 4 isolation exercises and 10 to 12 reps each.
Additionally, I do a lot of blast band work and eccentric less work for rhomboids, rear delts and rotator cuffs in between pressing sets.
I throw in some eccentric less bicep work, too.
pm: High intensity interval training for 20 to 25 minutes
am: Core work
Again 2 circuits for 2 to 3 rounds each and rope jumping.
pm: Neural charge workout
am: Deadlift and some pressing
I do 2 deadlift variations in this workout and throw some pressing in as well. The pressing isn’t heavy here but merely to add some volume to the weekly total.
A1. Rack pulls from pins. Force spectrum ramp with 3 reps for 8 sets
A2. Barbell fat-bar floor press. No ramp, same weight for all sets. 8 times 2 or 3 reps.
B1. Sumo deadlift: 5 times 5 reps. Sometimes some lighter work in addition to that.
B2. Seated top-half fat-bar press from pins: 5 sets of 5 with a weight I could do 7-8 reps with.
This workout could look like this:
A1. Top-half close-grip bench press from pins, fat bar: 5 mini-clusters of 3 x 1 rep
A2. Barbell curls with fat bar: ramp 5 to 6 sets of 5 reps
B1. Decline triceps extensions: 4 sets of 8 reps
B2. Incline dumbbell hammer curls 1 1/4 reps (bring the weight up 1/4 of the way, lower it and do a full rep. That’s one rep): 4 sets of 6 reps.
C1. Dips: either 4 sets of 12 reps or a ramp with 4 reps for up to 9 sets and up to 220 pounds additional weight.
C2. Hammer machine preacher curls: 4 sets of 5 bottom partials, 10 full reps, 5 top partials and 5 bottom partials again (5/10/5/5 is one set).
Foam rolling, mobility work, stretching.
Cardio only. I love to do hiking, rowing, mountain biking, cycling or skiing on Sundays.
So, that’s a proxy for my training week.
I’m 1.90m tall and weight around 220 to 235 pounds, depending on my goals and training volume and training focus. I was down to just under 200 pounds after my surgery last year.
Even while bulking I do not go over 10% bodyfat. Remember, I am a natural bodybuilder and just lose too much substance if I bulk up too much and then have to strip a lot of fat. I did that in the past, but it didn’t work optimally for me.
My contest weight is 210, 211 pounds. My highest weight on stage was 224 pounds but I was way out of shape… My highest bodyweight ever must have been 249 pounds (fat…).
My bench used to be me weakest lift. Over the last 2 years it was the lift that improved the most. I attribute this to the much higher volume of work and the higher frequency. I could not have done it without Christian Thibaudeau. The best coach I know and the only coach I blindly trust. 'nough said.
Bench: 473 pounds. I hope to make the magic 500 some day, but I’m an old man (in terms of years of training experience) and it could be tough… But I’ll never give up, that’s for sure.
Top-half bench press is well over 500.
Sumo deadlift from floor: 616 lbs
Front squat: 462 lbs for reps.
Back squat: I work with up to 530 pounds (could probably go higher here, but had some back issues several times in my lifting “career”).
I don’t use straps, wraps, suits or belts. Those are valuable tools but I’m not a power lifter and no pro bodybuilder. I just love the feeling of being able to move heavy weight without any assistance.
I will never be a top bodybuilder and I will never be a top weigh lifter. But at almost 37 I am pretty happy with my strength level. I can still be in pretty decent contest shape within 8 weeks and I can also run a marathon any time. I love to be poly-sportive and have no ambitions of ever becoming a pro or winning many more contests. I just want to feel strong and healthy.
I’ll try to keep this one short and just give you a general description of my diet.
First of all, let me say that I do not do “binge days” and totally dislike the idea of a bodybuilding diet being something like a burden and “binge days” or “free days” being a redemption. I like my diet and I love to eat what I eat. Chris Shugart from T-Nation is a great ambassador of healthy yet delicious bodybuilding nutrition. Read his stuff.
I eat 49 times a week. That’s 7 meals a day. There are occasions when I will not be able or do not want to stick to my regular diet. But that’s great and I embrace that fact rather than get angry about eating a chicken breast too little.
I eat around 2-3 meals a week which do not really fall into the category of clean bodybuilding meals.
Like one business lunch a week where the menu is set and I have no options, one traditional Swiss dish on Saturday evenings or even a Pizza or a big bowl of pasta, or something else I love when my fiancee and I go out for dinner. On Sundays I often have pancakes for breakfast, or sometimes just bread with butter and jam and a hot chocolate. That’s 3 meals out of 49 and those do not have any impact on my shape. I eat a wide variety of foods and do not just down broccoli, rice and chicken breast like so many other bodybuilders seem to do.
I do cycle macronutrients. A typical week could look like this (example):
Monday: low-calorie, low-protein day (only 1’000 calories in total, only one protein pulse in the morning and no other protein meals, some veggies, nuts, almonds and a bit of fruit in the morning).
Tuesday: High carbs, high protein, moderate fat
I feel this is the most anabolic day of the week. After the low protein/calorie day my body is primed to “store” as much protein and carbs as possible.
Wednesday: Moderate carbs, high protein, moderate fat
Thursday: Moderate carbs, high protein, moderate fat
Friday: Low carbs, high protein, high(er) fat
Saturday: High carbs, high protein and high fat due to one to two non-standard meals
Sunday: Low carbs throughout the day with one free meal, high protein, low fat
The above is just an example. Let me add that on low carb days I down less than 50g of carbs. Moderate means 100g to 130g and on high carb days I go up to 400-600g.
High protein means something like 330g for me.
Moderate fat is 50g-60g, higher fat is 80g-100g.
Most of the carbs are consumed peri-workout. I am a BIG believer in proper peri-workout nutrition.
I reduce my carb intake in the second half of the day. The first meals’ major carb source are fruits. Later the day I switch to veggies and beans for carbs.
I eat either fruit and/or veggies with every meal with the exception of my peri-workout protocol.
Carb sources: Peri-workout protocol, fruits, veggies, some from probiotic joghurt
Protein sources: Peri-workout protocol, any kind fish, chicken, red meat (every day!), low-fat greek yoghurt, probiotic joghurt, cottage cheese, beans, eggs (omega 3), protein powder
Fat sources: fish (I love shashimi), avocados, Flameout, olive oil, other oils, nuts, almonds, meat, eggs, butter
I avoid starchy carb sources or highly processed carbs and white sugar all the time with the exception of my 2 to 3 non-standard meals each week.
This is so important for every athlete and for me as a natural bodybuilder it’s absolutely crucial!
I love the Biotest products. My personal favourite full protocol for high-carb days would look like this:
WO -90min Alpha-GPC
WO -40min 2 FINiBAR
WO -20min 1 Serving Surge Workout Fuel
WO -5min 2 Scoops Surge Recovery
During the WO: 2 Servings of Surge Workout Fuel
WO +15min: 2 Scoops of Grow!
This is my personal favourite and what I found works best for me. It’s a lot of calories and carbs and others might do better with different timing and/or different supps or different quantities.
On days where I want to keep carbs lower I would go for:
WO -90min Alpha-GPC
WO -20min 1 Serving Surge Workout Fuel
During the WO: 1 Serving of Surge Workout Fuel AND 25-30 BCAA tabs
WO +15min: 2 Scoops of Grow!
On low-carb days I would probably just use one scoop of SWF or one FINiBAR and the Alpha-GPC and the protein powder.
For the eccentric less workouts and the cardio and conditioning sessions I usually just use the BCAA tabs and, depending on the carb-target of the day, a FINiBAR or some SWF.
Staples are: vitamin D (2’000 to 4’000 IU / day), vitamin C (1g to 2g / day), zinc (30-50mg / day).
Further: some sort of protein powder to add protein to whole food meals or as an important protein source on my low-carb days. Metabolic Drive before bed is great. A whey or casein hydrolisate after waking for a protein pulse is also great.
Other supps I like are creatine, Superfood (a greens supplement), a mineral formula (will order Biotest’s the next time because it just looks great in terms of quality of ingredients and composition), and sometimes a multi vitamin (prefer greens supp).
Tried many others, but like to keep it simple. If I could only use 3 supps those would be FINiBARS, Surge Workout Fuel and Surge Recovery (peri-workout nutrition).
I start working in my office after my am workout at 8 am. 8:30 am at latest. Some days I can’t take a lunch break and just eat at my desk. If I donÃ?Â¢??t take breaks I can leave the office at, let’s say, 7 to 7:15 pm. I hit the gym at 7:30, do my workout and go home cooking.
I try to spend at least 2 evenings a week with my friends, two evenings with my girl. One evening I need to clean my flat, precook meals, wash and iron. On weekends I love to meet friends, my father, my sister and her family or my girl’s parents.
I try to read at least a few pages in a book every single day.
If I work out in my lunch break I have to work a bit longer. I still find the time to cook a healthy dinner. The more you cook, the better you look… they say. I still find the time to meet a friend. To live a bit.
As I said, I get up at 4:45 am every morning Monday to Friday. I hit the sack at around 11 to 11:30 pm. On weekends I do like to sleep a bit longer. I get up at 7 am on Saturday and at 9 am on Sundays. Sometimes my girl and I just sleep in on Sundays
I believe life is a wholly mental construct. If you truly want something you have to go for it. Don’t complain about not finding the time to train, to meet friends, to take care of your relationship, to play, have fun and - consequently - to be happy. Just DO it! Doing things is, more often than not, much easier than thinking about the best way or time to do them.
I highly recommend banning the TV from your bedroom. Instead of watching all those TV series and dreaming about a life like the characters in the series live, go out and do all those cool things yourself.
I love training, I allocate a lot of time to it, but I do realise that there are many, many other live-enriching activities I want to experience.
Make your body your temple.
But equally important:
Find someone to love.
Experience new things often.
Make other people happy.
Do some crazy shit.
Read. Learn. Teach.
Pay things forward.
My mother once told me, only a few weeks before she died, that our life actually isnÃ?Â¢??t ours: it’s just borrowed, and one day we will have to give it back. Embrace that gift as long as you are allowed to have it. Make the best of it. Live like you mean it.