T Nation

(Mighty) Stu Yellin, WNBF Pro Updates n Q&A

So after keeping past threads to continually update on my contest outings, injuries, and field various questions and answers, I finally had my most recent one auto-lock after reaching 1125 replies (and about 150,000 views!)

As I seem to get plenty of questions pertaining to my own thoughts on training, nutrition, supplements even when I’m not in an active contest prep period, I figure I’ll start a new thread for any continued updates etc. Actually, I had people on Facebook make sure I knew that my last thread maxed out and that I needed to start a new one, so that was a nice little compliment.

For those who are new to the site, a little Bio on me as it pertains to bodybuilding:
-WNBF Natural Pro Bodybuilder
-USBF Natural Pro Bodybuilder
-Contest prep and online training coach

I started my first real contest thread on here back in '09 as a way of holding myself accountable, being able to discuss various issues with experienced competitors (there weren’t really too many on here back then), and really just see how knowledgeable I really was. You can be ‘the guy’ in your gym who everyone comes to with their questions, but until you truly prove that you can shred down your bodyfat while maintaining a respectable amount of muscle, IMO, you’re not truly walking the walk.

The lovely Mods here always seem to sticky my latest threads (very much appreciated, thanks guys!), so just in case my last one gets unstickied, here’s a link to it.

It includes the period between my USBF Pro card win, through my controversial 2nd place at the 2011 Mr. America, my WNBF pro card win, and leads up to my torn labrum this past summer and resultant surgery.

Once I have a spare moment, I’ll continue updating on my rehab process (10 weeks post surgery at the moment), and even outline my wife’s plans to compete in two shows this coming Spring (both shows that I’ve won, so just a little bit of pressure to carry the family name -lol)

S

Excellent Stu. Truly one of the most knowledgable and humble guys on here. Look forward to reading and sharing your journey mate!

Thanks for starting up a new thread Stu.

What does your diet look like during your recovery period - have you dropped the calories significantly due to the reduced activity or upped cardio at all?

How is the recovery going in general?

subbed. Love me some Mighty Stu

This should be good.

[quote]Iron Dwarf wrote:
This should be good. [/quote]

x2.

Appreciate the dedication and effort you put into keeping us all informed.

First, thanks for the kind words guys. I’ve always been appreciative of the support I get from the folks on here, so continuing to share my own adventures and opinions is something I enjoy doing.

[quote]lemony2j wrote:
Thanks for starting up a new thread Stu.

What does your diet look like during your recovery period - have you dropped the calories significantly due to the reduced activity or upped cardio at all?

How is the recovery going in general?[/quote]

I’ve found myself in an odd predicament concerning my diet. One one hand, I could raise my calories, or even maintain my previous intake, banking on the surplus to buffer against excessive muscle loss. Of course the downside would be the obvious fat gain from the huge drop in activity.
On the other hand, I could scale back my nutritional intake considerably, simply in an effort to avoid the accumulation of adipose during this recovery period, yet still try to get enough quality nutrients to maintain what muscle I can, and support what limited training sessions I can manage.

So what I settled on, what pretty close to what I have typically done in past years’ offseasons. Control what I can during my workweek, and enjoy myself, within reason, on weekends. Of course my typical workday diet now contains quite a bit fewer cals and carbs than I would typically be eating at my usual ~205 lbs non-contest weight, but I seem to be maintaining my standard eating cadence, frequent feedings of protein, targeted carbs (only with breakfast and pre-workouts), and sipping some BCAAs throughout the day most likely more for the mental aspect of stalling catabolism than anything.

Some people have asked me about drastically cutting my carbs, but carb intake is a 2 headed issue. Sure you can drop bodyfat easier when managing insulin, but muscle growth can be compromised. As such, I’ve limited mine, but not cut it down completely.

Another issue frequently suggested is cardio. Similar to cutting carbs, I’m a bit hesitant to engage in anything that may promote further muscle loss.

Certain things are just inevitable given my circumstances. Since I haven’t been able to really train delts and chest since this past July when I first realized I realized something was amiss with my shoulder, the amount of muscle I’ve lost has been quite noticeable. This past weekend I put on a jacket I haven’t worn since last year, and while it used to fit perfectly across my upper back and delts, it hung quite sadly now. Cat frequently reminds me how she not only came back from a broken humerus bone, but went straight from her rehab into her first ever contest. That, and the fact that I’ve had some sort of injury or issue during every past contest prep that I’ve done. If it is at all humanly possible to return to form, I can do it.

At this stage, I realize that there is an end in sight, something that was difficult to see when I was fresh out of surgery. By now, all the connective/bone/tissue healing in the area is fairly solid. The bone has fused around whatever sutures, wires, and bolts the surgeons had to use. Now we’ve got the task of rebuilding the deep, basic musculature that will actually allow me to move my arm with full range of motion. After that, then I’ll be able to obsess once again on the larger, compound muscles :slight_smile:

As to the physical therapy, certain muscles are regaining their strength fairly quickly. While I am only using a 10 lb dumbell for external rotations while laying on my side (rotator cuff stuff), they have me doing seating cable rows with about 120 lbs. Obviously the back muscles didn’t suffer the same issues as the rotator cuff area, but from such a length of inactivity, I feel like there’s cobwebs everywhere.

I’ll outline what my current PT and gym training sessions look like in a bit, don’t wanna kill everyone with extreme walls of text. You guys know by now that I can talk -lol.

S

thanks for the info

Do you have an idea yet of how your training will change when you are back to full force? My shoulders feel fine, but I can’t help but think that I’m creating imbalances by doing nothing for my rotator cuffs besides rows and the occasional set of shoulder dislocations.

[quote]browndisaster wrote:
thanks for the info

Do you have an idea yet of how your training will change when you are back to full force? My shoulders feel fine, but I can’t help but think that I’m creating imbalances by doing nothing for my rotator cuffs besides rows and the occasional set of shoulder dislocations.[/quote]

I would think that doing at least some direct work for the rotator cuff muscles would be a smart form of preventative (hopefully) training, especially for anyone who enjoys heavy pressing work. Not everyone who trains develops issues in the area, but it is fairly common considering the small, weaker nature of the muscles involved when compared to the larger, compound musculature (pectorals, deltoids etc) that allow for greater and greater stresses to be placed on the joint.

As far as my own post rehab-training: I’ve been told that certain exercises would essentially be “off the table” for a long while. Dips put a stupid amount of stress on the joint, especially in my particular case. Any pressing work that involves a deep stretch (gonna have to be careful with cables as well once I do get the greenlight), leg work that calls for heavy pressure on my AC Joint (why I haven’t been able to do hack squats yet), and I’m certain a bunch more that haven’t come up during therapy sessions.

My focus, which has already been the case in recent years, will be applying stress to the muscle, keeping it there, and minimizing negative effects to the surrounding joints. What specific exercises, ROMs, rep ranges, rep cadences etc that will be needed is something I will have to figure out as I go.

As to using everything at your disposal I’d like to point out that it took my back injury in '07 for me to incorporate dynamic warmups into my training. In hindsight, I’m sure all that pain could have been avoided. At the time though, no one in the average gym was doing anything even close to what I would find myself exposed to. No foam rolling, no mention of tight muscle facia, instances of glutes not firing, or tight IT bands.

When younger kids at the gym pick my brain for advice, the common thread I propose is to “plan for the long run.” When I picked up a weight at 20 years of age, just trying to pump up a bit for the ladies, I had no idea that almost 20 years later I’d be worrying about how soon I could get back onstage in a speedo.

The old joke comes to mind about the 100 year old gentleman who is asked what he would have done differently in his life. He replies “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself” :slight_smile:

S

Stu,

I really enjoy your threads, I’ve learned a lot by reading through them.

You probably have already answered this before but could you give me some ideas on where you researched to find out how to plan for your first bodybuilding show? I’m really more interested in the nutritional aspect of how you planned your contest prep.

I did a non tested show in 2008 even-though I was drug free and finished middle of the pack. I would now like to do a tested show in May of 2013 under my own diet plan. Last time I had someone help me.

Also I wanted to say that you’ll make it back just fine to your normal self after this injury. In 2009 I was training for a power lifting competition and two weeks before it I became very ill and was hospitalized with something called ulcertive colitis. I was in the hospital for a week in which I was bed ridden and unable to eat. I lost 20lbs of muscle in that one week. My first workout back I went from a 340lb bench to only being able to do 135 x 5, my squat also dropped from roughly 450 to a struggle to get 135 x 8. It took a little time but I made it back to where I was. I tell you this because it’s obvious you’re a highly motivated person, i’m sure you’ll come back stronger than ever! Best of luck on your journey back.

Not sure if you and I have ever “spoken” on here, but I’ve always appreciated the time you put in and your general attitude with things. Good luck with everything bud.

Natural BB’s who can get in shape are the ones we should all listen to, not an enhanced genetic elite.

Glad to see things are progressing nicely. Took 6-8 months before I attempted dips after a similar surgery, and on an assisted dip machine.

Good luck Stu. Hope things keep progressing like they are.

Hey Stu! I’m in the midst of preparing for my first competition, currently 5 weeks out and unfortunately will have to serve the army for 6 days during my 4th week out of competition (a call-up period for conscription). During these 6 days, I will have no access to any gym but will still be able to do cardio (running and posing). I also intend to bring in my own food (mostly sweet potatoes, tuna and protein powder).

What changes if any, will you recommend me to make on my own caloric intake, or exercise regime? I’m currently carb cycling with 300/200/120 carbs, fats around 60, protein around 200 and weighing in at 136 lbs. I have been doing cardio 10 times a week (posing every night and 3 sprint workouts a week) and lifting weights 6 times a week.

I intend to drop my carbs to around 120 for that 6 days and keep my cardio the same.

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:

[quote]browndisaster wrote:
thanks for the info

Do you have an idea yet of how your training will change when you are back to full force? My shoulders feel fine, but I can’t help but think that I’m creating imbalances by doing nothing for my rotator cuffs besides rows and the occasional set of shoulder dislocations.[/quote]

I would think that doing at least some direct work for the rotator cuff muscles would be a smart form of preventative (hopefully) training, especially for anyone who enjoys heavy pressing work. Not everyone who trains develops issues in the area, but it is fairly common considering the small, weaker nature of the muscles involved when compared to the larger, compound musculature (pectorals, deltoids etc) that allow for greater and greater stresses to be placed on the joint.

As far as my own post rehab-training: I’ve been told that certain exercises would essentially be “off the table” for a long while. Dips put a stupid amount of stress on the joint, especially in my particular case. Any pressing work that involves a deep stretch (gonna have to be careful with cables as well once I do get the greenlight), leg work that calls for heavy pressure on my AC Joint (why I haven’t been able to do hack squats yet), and I’m certain a bunch more that haven’t come up during therapy sessions.

My focus, which has already been the case in recent years, will be applying stress to the muscle, keeping it there, and minimizing negative effects to the surrounding joints. What specific exercises, ROMs, rep ranges, rep cadences etc that will be needed is something I will have to figure out as I go.

As to using everything at your disposal I’d like to point out that it took my back injury in '07 for me to incorporate dynamic warmups into my training. In hindsight, I’m sure all that pain could have been avoided. At the time though, no one in the average gym was doing anything even close to what I would find myself exposed to. No foam rolling, no mention of tight muscle facia, instances of glutes not firing, or tight IT bands.

When younger kids at the gym pick my brain for advice, the common thread I propose is to “plan for the long run.” When I picked up a weight at 20 years of age, just trying to pump up a bit for the ladies, I had no idea that almost 20 years later I’d be worrying about how soon I could get back onstage in a speedo.

The old joke comes to mind about the 100 year old gentleman who is asked what he would have done differently in his life. He replies “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself” :slight_smile:

S[/quote]
Many thanks stu, I gave some of these tips a try today. We’ll see how my body holds up for the next couple of decades lol

[quote]OatsNMilk wrote:
Hey Stu! I’m in the midst of preparing for my first competition, currently 5 weeks out and unfortunately will have to serve the army for 6 days during my 4th week out of competition (a call-up period for conscription). During these 6 days, I will have no access to any gym but will still be able to do cardio (running and posing). I also intend to bring in my own food (mostly sweet potatoes, tuna and protein powder).

What changes if any, will you recommend me to make on my own caloric intake, or exercise regime? I’m currently carb cycling with 300/200/120 carbs, fats around 60, protein around 200 and weighing in at 136 lbs. I have been doing cardio 10 times a week (posing every night and 3 sprint workouts a week) and lifting weights 6 times a week.

I intend to drop my carbs to around 120 for that 6 days and keep my cardio the same. [/quote]

I know there are a few other questions/comments I have to get to, but I figure that yours is most time-sensitive, so let me address it first.

No competitor wants real life to get in the way of a contest prep, but sometimes there’s not much we can do about it. In your case, the fact that you’ll be able to still control your food intake and cardio (which is pretty important at 4 weeks out) is a good thing. The issue you can’t control is the weight training. Luckily, the point of weight training during a contest diet is to stimulate the body to continue sending nutrients to the muscle tissue in order to prevent the body from reabsorbing it.

As this situation doesn’t always require large amounts of work volume, any little bits of muscle work can hopefully alleviate any horrible scenarios you had playing out in your head (pushups, pullups, stairs…)

Your idea to cut carbs would be viewed as sound by most people. It is after all the preferred fuel source for gut wrenching workouts and interval cardio. The flip side of the carbohydrate dilemma is that it also allows your body to spare burning through muscle tissue. This is why you’ll find so many unassisted bodybuilders never going full ketogenic, even if they do have to drop fairly low for several days at a time. Losing LBM is the surest way to put the brakes on what would be steady fat loss.

The longer I competed, the more I realized that I could keep my carb intake higher, so long as I was in a sufficient caloric deficit, and my body had a reason to continue sending nutrients to my muscles. Without getting into how many cals or glycogen I was actually burning through with my workouts, as long as I was progressing without stalls, I knew my intake and my expenditure were balanced enough to keep moving forward. The 180 g carb drop you’re proposing comes out to a little over 700 cals. How many you actually need to power through a training session is unknown to me, but you’re still going to need to deal with a good number of cardio, sprint, and posing sessions.

Two things can come out of your proposed approach:

1- Things work perfectly, and your adjustment of carbs/cals fits the difference of removing weight work. Additionally, you have enough glycogen stored, and enough carbs coming in at targeted points to prevent any excessive muscle loss.

2- Your body doesn’t like going 6 days on such low carbs (you’ve been cycling, so think of how many days you truly go ‘low’ without a bump), and aside from the weight drop you will undoubtedly see from the water shift, you sacrifice a bit of muscle in the process.

So, my suggestions, knowing nothing about your training, previous week’s stats, #s, etc…

-Definitely drop carbs to some degree for SOME of those days. Especially if you cannot even work in any type of weight-bearing work to substitute for muscle-retention purposes.

-Do NOT go a full 6 days on your ‘low’ #s. Your body is not used to it, and the real benefit of carb cycling is to prevent metabolic slowdown (and a whole list of hormonal, and psychological benefits as well)

I’ve had clients who have made use of traditional cyclical diets (high, medium and low), and when things get rough, and we’re digging in towards the end, we will sometimes just cycle between low and medium for a week or two in order to really goad the body into progress.

Remember, the trick isn’t being the biggest competitor in the off season, it’s retaining the most muscle en route to the stage!

Good Luck, hope my thoughts were helpful.

S

1 Like

Thanks alot Stu! Your comments are deeply appreciated. I’ll think through your points and come up with a plan!

Wanted to stop in and say good luck with the recovery. Im 7 months post op on a hip surgery and am still many months away from being anywhere close to normal, so I hope and expect by the time I return to normal lifting you’ll already have beaten me back.

In one of your posts one this page you mentioned how you include dynamic warm ups, specifically stuff like IT bands. What do you do for IT bands to loosen them up? They are an issue for me right now, and all I’ve been told by my PT is to do some wall stretches.

And I wanted to say thanks for all the time you spend offering advice Stu. I know I’ve pm’ed you a couple times and you were very willing to answer my questions.

[quote]bandit40 wrote:
Stu,

I really enjoy your threads, I’ve learned a lot by reading through them.

You probably have already answered this before but could you give me some ideas on where you researched to find out how to plan for your first bodybuilding show? I’m really more interested in the nutritional aspect of how you planned your contest prep. [/quote]

A lot of people may not realize this, but I was very into sports medicine when I was younger. I took 3 college classes at Adelphi (NY area college) when I was still in high school, and was even doing volunteer hours at a local Physical Therapy office long before most average people knew what PT even was. In college, I was pre-med for a few years until I realized that the part I was interested in, wasn’t the real chem-heavy stuff I was learning.

My life took a different route after graduation when my art work got me into NYU Tisch School of the Arts for graduate study, but I still read a hell of a lot about nutrition and training. Fast forward quite a bit (nice little 12 year stint as an animatior), and I find myself hunting down local seminars and lectures. Most are CSCS and Therapist oriented, others are more bodybuilding-type stuff (lotta practical nutrition stuff). When I first met Jim Cordova at one of these, I had no plans of competing, and to be honest, didn’t think I had developed the physique that I apparently had at that point.

Jim was very encouraging (as was the Then Editor of Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness magazine, who actually put me in the mag, even though I’d never competed). We struck up an email friendship, and I found that Jim was very forthcoming, not in a contest prep coach way, but in validating what I had researched on my own. From continued seminars and beign a spectator at contests, I began chatting with Brian Whitacre, and Shaun Clarida as well.

Being able to compare my own approaches with these top natural pros was one of the most helpful situations you could imagine. I still was doing tons of research on my own. During these years I realized how non-informative Flex magazine truly was -lol. I have so many books and journals in my apartment it’s just insane. THere’s probably personal trainer manuals from 4 different organizations, college class nutrition texts that I bought used online just to read on my own, and countless packets of notes I’ve assembled, highlighted, and placed in binders for my own reference.

All this information was a great starting point. Ultimately though, I believe it was my analytic nature and being able to assess my own progress while going through the motions of a contest prep that allowed me to finally put the pieces of the puzzle together, and actually “see the Matrix” so to speak.

Ok, gotta run to teach a class, but I’ll answer more if you want, when I have a moment!

S

Thanks Stu! I’ve started my research and will see what I can put together.