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Optimal Training Systems

I’m looking for some opinions on Leo Costa Jr. and the program he puts out thought Optimal Training Systems. I did a search and found only one reference where Charles Poloquin slammed it, but gave no real reasons for his opinion.

They are a bunch of idiots! They reccomend training each body part 2times per day twice per week for the best results!
I bought the book when I was a like 8 years ago in High Shcool.

It’s funny how Poliquin slammed it, seeing as how he said in a “question of strength” a while back that some can make really good gains if they were to train a muscle with heavy weights in the morning, then come back about 6 hrs later and hit the same muscle with lighter weights and higher reps. I think the main difference with Charles’ program is that every body part is worked on one day only for the week, as opposed to hitting in two days in a week. He also said a person could keep this up for 2 weeks and then cycle back to one session a day training for a week to prevent overtraining. I don’t have the article in front of me, I’ll go look it up though.

You can find the original “question of strenth” regarding this in edition NO. 45

I had bought his book “big beyond belief” a couple of years ago when I was in high school. It wasn’t until recently that i found the book when i was moving. A lot of the ideas in the book seemed a little radical but i gave it a try. And in my opinion I have seen really good progress with it. The only thing i might have did different is that i don’t go to faliure every workout. It’s a constant pump everyday, and i like that.

Chad J: What are the nuts and bolts of this type of training? I know it won’t make a mass monster out of anyone, (when was the last time you saw a bulgarian Mr. Universe?) but it sounds like an interesting change of pace…

I did variations on this program for about 6 months or so (a few years back). While not great for size/strength gains, I was in great shape! The rest intervals are short, the reps are higher and the high volume of work really kept me lean without dieting or much cardio.

Funny thing...back when I competed, I went up against Leo Costa Jr on stage (yep, he competes or at least he did). He's a BIG dude too! He was about 5'9" and 260 on stage. He swears that he trains by this method. However the irony there is that although BIG Ive never seen him shreaded. He's always been a little soft and sloppy looking on stage. Since I know you're gonna ask anyway, he did beat me :-(

Problem was this...it was a height class contest and while I get very ripped for shows, I weighed in at 190 at 5'8" vs his 260lbs. The scorecard was really close and most of the crowd thought I should have won, he did outweigh me by 70lbs and whether sloppy or not, the judges like massive guys.

Leo Costa’s Serious Growth' routine seems to attract much derision in the muscle press,but I have to wonder if these authors have ever actually tried the routine.I too was puzzled when I read Poliquin's criticisms.He recommends alternating periods of high volume with low volume training periods-well in the early 90's Costa was the first person I recall bringing out a program incorporating this concept.Charles also has written favourably on two-a-day workouts-I made some great gains training on the two-a-daySerious Growth’ routine.When I first recieved the manual I almost threw it aside ,I thought it was too radical,it condradicted everything that was being preached at the time(this was in the early 90’s when hard-gainers like myself were continually being told to train briefly and infrequently’,advice that got me nowhere).One thing I would recommend if you try the program is to make sure your diet & supplementation are spot-on,and get plenty of sleep-no late nights while you are on this routine!
I found following up three weeks of 2X-a-day high-volume training with a few weeks of once-a-day low-volume workouts worked well for me.I also follow different dietary prescriptions to what is reccommended in the book(see my post under`low carb dieting’).Good post workout nutrition is crucial on this (and any other)program.Best of luck!

This is for those who really didnt pay attention to what Poliquin said. The particular program he was talking about was meant as a shocker. Not something to do everyday. If your even halfway knowledgeable about Poliquin, you know that the onle constant in his program is change. He said that in one of his articles. He didnt mean train twice a day on everything for ever. Go back and read more carefully. And these Bulgarian programs were designed for Olympic Lifters. Not bodybuilders. Thats two way different things.

Goldberg: Not to be snippy, but…where in any of the previous posts did you see anyone of us saying to do the routine day in and day out? This is rather presumptuous on your part. If you notice, I asked for more info about the program as a nice change of pace. “Change of pace” presupposes that I understand the need to change and make use of variety to further gains (and I do). So…what’s your point?

In fact the bulgarians train many times aday, more than twice aday. The problem here is the type of training. Olympic weight lifting vs bodybuilding. With Olympic lifting very little eccentric muscle action occurs except in the downward phase of the snatch or the clean. Once the weight is over head in the jerk the bar is dropped to the floor. In most cases the rep range is between 1 to 3 to 5 reps. The point I am trying to make is very little muscle damage occurs with olympic lifting ( as a general rule). the exact opposite occurs with body building. Who knows if two bouts of muscle damage on the same day is beneficial. I tend to doubt it. That is why taking multiple daily olympic sessions and applying it to bodybuilding is not going to work. They are just not the same training methods. One is more functional training and the other is structural training.

When you said,"It’s funny how Poliquin slammed it, seeing as how he said in a “question of strength” a while back that some can make really good gains if they were to train a muscle with heavy weights in the morning, then come back about 6 hrs later and hit the same muscle with lighter weights and higher reps,"it sounded as if you were saying that poliquin was contradicting himself. if you werent i apologize. but thats what it sounded like to me.

I thought I would just bring it up since nobody has mentioned it yet. What do you think of Leo Costa’s theory on the Optimal Training Zone, the area in a persons training where he is between overtraining and undertraining?

I did a special version of the serious growth program a few summers ago. It was a program devised by Leo Costa Jr. for the SEALs. It was meant to build pure functional strength. Hence, all mass gains would be functional. You trained six days a week. At one point I did squats for four weeks straight with only one day off a week. I got very, very strong. On many lifts I have gotten nowhere near those poundages. I also got decently big particularly in the shoulders and back. Let’s see I was doing 635 on squats for sets of 2-3 reps. I also did behind the neck presses at 245 for the same reps. Now, I can probably only do about 475-500 on squats (not sure because I hurt my back and have been laying off) and 175 or so on presses. This strength didn’t just vanish, I stopped lifting for a while so I haven’t gotten back to where I was strength wise. I am bigger now then I was then. Of course I want more mass now then I did then. I am very interested in trying his new program Titan Training. This is only a four day a week program. I’d really like to see how it works.

I’m 26 now, but I used the OTS system when I was in college (from the ages of about 19 to 21) and had some phenomenal success with it. That might be because guys that age are chock full of natural testosterone and the like, and I was able to get much more sleep in those days; I don’t know. But I did make VERY significant progress right from the outset, and continued to progress faster than anyone I knew for most of the time that I was on the system. More recently (now that I’m an old man) I’ve tried going back to it but have had very little success with it. That might be because my body got “used” to it, it might be because I’m a far more advanced trainer now and it’s always harder to add muscle to an advanced guy than to a beginner or intermediate guy, OR it might be because my natural hormone levels and recovery abilities, at age 26, aren’t what they were during my college days. (Not to mention the fact that I now live a lifestyle which includes working 12 hour days, coping with extremely high stress levels and getting an average of 6 hours of sleep per night. For someone who lives a life which affords them good recovery abilities, i.e. plenty of sleep and no excessive stress, I think it’s definately worth giving this program a shot. If this applies to you AND you’re on the younger side (say under 22), you’re almost certain to make gains from it.

My experiences were exactly the same as Damici’s

The idea behind his workouts are to spend three weeks ramping up towards overtraining. You are supposed to get close to overtraining by the end of the third week. You do this by increasing the sets and decreasing the rest period as the three weeks progress, basically adding more volume. Then after the three weeks you would back off by decreasing the sets and increasing the rest intervals. you would continue like this for another three weeks, before ramping back up towards overtraing. The other thing is that he lays out some workouts for 4X a week, 6X a week, and 6X two perday. This is the workout plan i am using right now along with a shitload of food and i’m very satisfied with my results. But then again i am 22 and maybe that still plays a role.

I also tried the program when I was in high school and college and did very well on it. I am 27 now. I switched to the 4 day a week program in 1998 and made excellent progress as well training each bodypart twice a week. The keys are that I did not go to failure until the last set and as others haave stated I was able to sleep 8-9 hours a day and did not have much stress. Now that I work long hours in the dotcom world the program is no longer that practical for me.

This sounds interesting. One question: What specific rep ranges would you recommend for the workouts? Thanks.

They tell you exactly what rep range to use each day. For example, one day will be 13-15, one will be 10-12, one will be 8-10, one will be 4-6, etc. The deal is that you train each bodypart three times per week, with each of the three times being in a different rep range (with the high rep days being earlier in the week).