T Nation

This is Gareth Sapstead. Coach and Chief Ass-Kicker at TheFitnessMaverick and Author of the "Ultimate Abs" Book. Ask Me Anything

Hey, Coach Gareth here. I’ll be hanging around to answer all your important
questions about getting swole and jacked, looking great naked, and avoiding nagging injuries.

If you’ve read any of my training articles or books then you might have follow-up questions. Or, if you just want a friendly chat about how I take my coffee then ask away.

If you want to find more about me then head to:

So, current questions rolling around the T-Nation instagram page include: “Do you take steroids”, and “how much you bench”… anymore? haha

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What is your recommendation for strengthening the lower back for better squat performance? Every time i start putting squats back in, my low back acts up or spine moves out of place (I know form is okay).
I have a long torso and have had some scoliosis in the past (corrected through chiropractic).

Thanks,
Cyclonengineer

On a scale of “Cain and Abel” to “Chris and Liam Hemsworth”, how are you and Ryan getting along as fitness pros who happen to be brothers?

More serious question: I haven’t had a chance to checkout the Ultimate Abs book, but we know getting abs is also about fat loss, not just training abs, and I’m sure you address it. Any general fat loss tips - go-to nutrition advice, thoughts on cardio vs weights, etc.?

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I feel like i’ve tried just about everything for my long arms…heavy and low rep, high rep low weight, daily training for volume. Any specific tips for arms that aren’t blessed with great genetics? lol

First off, great work on battling the scoliosis and not letting it hold you back (virtual fist bump). Overall, I’m a big fan of the reverse hyper for not only strengthening your spinal erectors, but also helping “decompress” your spine, and allowing you to “tolerate” more squats in your program. That being said the function of your spinal erectors during squats is more of a static/stabilizing one. So for even better transference to your squat then I’d recommend things like: seated goodmornings (popularized by Louie Simmons), wide stance goodmornings, heavy zercher holds and front-loaded carries. Pick just one for your assistance work that day, and then rotate exercises like these as frequently as you’d like (e.g., seated goodmornings one week, zercher holds the next etc). Hope that helps and feel free to drop any followup questions.

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Hey Chris

Clearly, I’m the Chris Hemsworth in that equation. Who wants to be Liam… ahah!?

Drop me an email with your address on it and I’ll have a copy of the book sent out to you, anytime.

In a fairly recent article (7 Reasons You've Got No Abs - T NATION) I state that “Abs are built in the gym (with resistance) and carved out in the kitchen.”

Quite simply, you won’t see your abs if you’ve got a thick layer of subcutaneous fat covering it, BUT you’ll also have a hard time seeing them if you don’t have much in terms of muscle in that area.

If you’re more the former then the priority should be on losing the fat (calorie deficit - Energy output is greater than input). My recommendation would be to do the majority of this through increased output, rather than starvation. For example eating your maintenance calories and just adding in an extra 30 minutes of brisk walking each day can kickstart things at the beginning.

But, if you’re already pretty lean then no diet will get those abs to pop. I’ve seen guys with penis-thin skin on their abdominals not have much in terms of a “six pack”. The only solution there is to build muscle and abdominal density.

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What’s something you’d love to see change about the fitness industry in general?

What lifts do you like for your performance benchmarks? Like, what’s your “big 3(2/4/5/etc)”?

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I firmly believe that to add an inch to your upper arms circumference you need to have gained about 7-10 lbs in total body weight. I believe this rule originates from the late Charles Poliquin, but I also believe the rule to hold true based on my own observations. So that’s what I’d look at/consider first.

No high-frequency or specialization program will work to optimally build muscle unless you’ve also got the nutrition side of things right. The low hanging fruit for me would be to select the program that’s worked best for you so far, and repeat it ensuring you’re also maintaining a slight calorie surplus (establish your maintenance calories and just start at +100-200 calories over that each day, adjusting based on your weekly changes to your body weight).

If you do that for, say, 6 weeks, focus on the poundages going up in that program while eating in a slight surplus then I’d be extremely surprised if your shirt sleeves weren’t ripping by then end!!

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thanks coach

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Really good question… For me, largely due to social media, a persons’ credibility now seems to be based largely on what they look like without a shirt on. Or who takes the best butt selfies.

For example, “Has abs” is a more credible resource in many minds compared to, for example, a Postgrad degree and decades of real-world coaching experience.

I don’t know how we change this, and unfortunately I don’t know if we ever will.

My big-4 always rotate every 4-6 weeks. Sometimes I’ll stick with them for up to 8-10 weeks if im feeling good. Previous cycle is was: BB floor press, BB RDL, Back squat, Seal rows. Currently its: Incline BB Press, single-leg RDL’s , reverse band Hack Squats, Pendlay rows.

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Is there a type of/specific person athlete that you have as a dream client? Why? To contextualise the question I know of a few people that would’ve loved to work with George St. Pierre.

In a similar vein - do you think social media is contributing to an increase in body dismorphia or eating disorders?

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I’ve never found coaching those “at the top” to be that rewarding. My opinion is that you never find the best coaches working with premier sports teams or athletes at the top of their game. Instead, it’s those who work in the middle leagues and with underdogs that have to ensure their training methods actually work.

As an example, this year we managed to get Shelace Shoemaker (IFBB Figure Pro) all the way to the Olympia. Something she’d never achieved before working with me. Just getting her there was a far bigger achievement in my mind than if I were working with one of the favorites to win, and someone with 3/4/5/6 Olympia appearances prior.

Another example would be getting the dad bod to look awesome for his first ever photoshoot. Versus the famous jacked celebrity that I’ve trained a couple times just to get a mention in Mens Health magazine.

The former is WAY more interesting and rewarding (albeit often pays less haha).

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Social media definitely contributes to body dysmorphia. Then again, I grew up playing Action Man and firmly believe that contributed to my own negative body image too haha. The fact social media is so accessible and subject to a lot of manipulation definitely doest help.

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