Thursday, January 12, 2012

Adelfo Cerame - Road to The Wheelchair Nationals '12: Are You Only Lifting Weights or Already Building Muscle?

Image 1: If you asked yourself how much "damage" the reintroduction of fruits and starchy carbs has done to Adelfo's physique, I guess that this picture that was taken on Tuesday, this week will suffice for an answer... or do you see any fat-gain? I don't not even the dreaded water in the lower abs has returned.
When people ask me for training advice - be that at the gym, on the SuppVersity Facebook wall or directly on my facebooky, ah... I mean fancy new "timeline", my first question usually is: "What is your training goal?" If the answer doesn't come like a shot, I already know where things are at sixes and sevens. More often than not the simple reason people's training sucks is because they either don't have a goal or are unwilling to prioritize one over the other. Training is there for a purpose it is no purpose in and out of itself! And for those of you who are aspiring to build a physique like Adelfo, this purpose will be muscle growth, not strength. To hit the gym "to lift heavy weights", will thusly always be secondary to hitting the gym to stimulate muscle growth. Given the fact that both are obviously closely related, the tips Adelfo is going to give you in today's installment of his contest prep series, here at the SuppVersity focus mainly around how your mindset and mind-to-muscle connection can help you to achieve the latter, i.e. maximal training stimuli, by doing the former, i.e. lifting heavy weights... enjoy!

You know how to lift weights, right? But do you know how to train?

What is your focus when you train at the gym? Are you prepared? Do you have a plan of attack? Know which exercises do to, how much reps you want to crank out and how many plates you are going to put onto the bar? No? Then you are one of those guys (or girls, obviously ;-) who just wing it and make up shit as you go? These every serious trainee should ask him- / herself, because the way you answer them will affect the way you perform at the gym and the latter will obviously determine whether you will meet your aims or fail.
Recipe of the Week: Keep It Simple, Nutritious and Delicious

Nutrition and training certainly have more than one thing in common. One such thing is that simplicity mostly beats finesse. And what could possibly be simpler, or I should say more basic than chicken breast, russet potatoes and veggies?
  • 10 oz chicken breast marinated in peanut thai sauce from Trader Joe’s  
  • 11 oz of organic russet potatoes baked and cut into mojo potatoes (seasoned with sea salt, crushed pepper, tarragon, and cayenne pepper)
  • 1 whole cucumber sliced and topped with 1 oz of fresh cut pineapples, sea salt, red wine vinegar, and sprinkles of truvia to add a sweet taste to it.
  • 1 cup of fresh papayas to top off the meal
Macros:  83g protein / 81g of carbs / 21g fat

Note: This 949 kcal post-workout meal is another demonstration of the beauty of intermittent fasting. I mean who, if not an intermittent faster would be able to chow down 949 kcal in one meal and still run a 500-600kcal/day deficit?
If the decision whether you want to wear the red or the black muscle shirt, or the question if the blue pants go well with your greenish top are the only things you have on your mind, when you are getting ready for a workout, I can guarantee you that your training will suck. For those of you who do now feel caught with the hands in the cookie jar (by the way, eating cookies before a workout ain't particularly productive either ;-), I have compiled a brief checklist which may help you to make the most of your time in the gym:
  1. Focus at the task at hand: Know your the body parts you are going to train, know the exercise and have a clear set / rep / weight goal for each of them.
  2. Get into the right mindset and your physical preparedness will follow: Know that you are in for a hard ride, commit yourself to putting your body through some positive pain (I am not talking about hurting yourself, guys), and, if by any means possible, find yourself a training partner who is just as dedicated as you are. I used to train alone, but I guess my current success is in part attributable to my new training partner who is willing and able to help me push through my limits
  3. Don't lose sight of your long-term goals:  Know what you are training for and which overall direction you want to take. Maximum fat loss and maximum strength, for example are mutual exclusives. Trying to achieve both at a time will lead to stagnation or regression. Make a list of short-term goals that mark the way towards your overall goal - this does not have to be the title at a bodybuilding competition. Just something that allows you to constantly remind yourself: "There's a prize, and I have my eye on it"
As you may notice, it's all in your head. Whether your workout is going to be productive or not is to a large extent determined by the attitude with which you are hitting the gym. It will keep you going, pushing, pulling, curling, squatting, and, what is probably most important, feeling confident with what you are doing.

Remember: For bodybuilders, lifting weights serves a purpose, it is no purpose of its own

Instead of just going to the gym, taking the heaviest dumbbell you can lift off the rack to do a few "ballistic curls" that will make your ego and maybe your traps grow, but leave your biceps idle, your (newly acquired?) mindset allows to really focus on good form and technique. You ignore the bros around you - some of them may be bigger than you are and they may be lifting heavier weight, but the way they train tells you that it won't be long until you will be the one who lifts the heaviest weights... and that with proper form.
January 2012 Training Video: Shoulder Day!

Video 1: Click on the image (or this link) to watch Adelfo perform alternating military and neck presses for 5 reps - the one shoulder exercise where he is going really heavy, yet not without his training partner as a spotter.
My shoulder regimen is basic and simple. I train my front, back and rear deltoids, and for some reason I like to incorporate my trapezoids into my shoulder training. To be honest for a while I thought the traps were a shoulder muscle, so I think that’s why I got into the habit of always training traps with shoulders. I don’t really do anything fancy with my shoulder training regimen, because, I figure my deltoids get hit most of the time when I’m doing bench press exercise or any type of rows when I train back, therefore one "shoulder day" a week is plenty - and for me that is usually Saturday.

In view of the fact that the shoulder is probably the most vulnerable of the major body parts bodybuilders use to isolate in their training regimen, I usually don't lift as heavy on these days, turn to the higher rep schemes (8-12) and perform 4-5 sets per exercise.

You can see me perform the last movement of my current shoulder workout, which consists of
  • DB lateral raises (side): 4x8-12 (Sometimes I’ll superset one with the other)
  • DB lateral raises (front): 4x8-12  (Sometimes I’ll superset one with the other)
  • Reverse machine fly’s/ or reverse cable crossovers (high grip): 4x8-12
  • Shrugs: 5x5 heavy
  • BB Military/Neck presses: 5x5 (I press from front to back= 1 rep)
in this weeks training video. The workout is based around a few suggestions Rob Regish, the author of The Blueprint, came up with and which has become one of my favorites!
For me and probably many of you, lifting heavier weights will yet always remain a means to an end. You improve your strength to be able to expose your muscle to new growth stimuli and those stimuli will be amplified, when you focus on the "mind-to-muscle connection". Learn the basic anatomy of your muscles, learn to flex each one of them and practice posing. All that can strengthen the mind-to-muscle connection and will exponentiate your gains. It will also help you to determine when a body part needs more rest - when you don't feel the muscle and are just pumping away your weights, chances are you need more rest.

Don't be "that guy": 5 Things not to do at the gym

And while these are the most fundamental DO's here is a list of the absolute DON'T's, most of which you will however encounter in gyms all across the world everyday:
    You think you could use some more advice on your  training, diet and supplementation regimen from someone who knows what it takes to build muscle and lose fat? Reach out to Adelfo via Facebook as long as he is still taking clients!
  • lifting weights for no clear-cut purpose - the "I just like to lift weights mentality" will get you nowhere
  • "lifting" way too heavy - the "I can use the heaviest dumbbells mentality" will get you nowhere but into the hospital
  • focussing on finishing a lift instead of lifting - the "just one more set mentality" will have you do 100 sets without having taxed the muscle once
  • training the same body parts everyday - the "my chest/biceps is lagging mentality" is the exact reason why your biceps and/or chest are lagging, you are overtraining them
  • becoming complacent - the "I am happy the way I am mentality" is just a way by which you are saving your lazy ass from the work it would take to make progress
Now, even if you think that you are already doing all the DO's and avoiding all the DON'T's, there will allways be room for improvement. For me, the incorporation of a lower rep-regimen (5x5 and even EDT) has brought my mind-and-muscle connection to another level. When you know that you have "only" 5 reps to stimulate the muscle, you will almost inevitably "make every rep count" - on the higher rep schemes, this is tremendously more difficult and you will find yourself often more focused on completing the 12-15 reps you are supposed to do than on the actual task at hand, which is to stimulate hypertrophy by contracting your muscle against the momentary resistance of the weight.

Lower rep schemes will force you to make every rep count

With low(er) rep schemes, such as 5x5, you know all you need to do is give everything you got for each of the 5 reps you are about to do. If you asked me, it's a psychological thing… I mean, mentally you know you only have to do like 3-5 reps and that’s it! You know you can just give everything you got and shoot your load within that one set, without worrying about having to keep going for another 5, or maybe even 10 reps. That will allow you to focus on maximum contractions and practicing the mind-to-muscle connection, which will eventually help you to maintain proper form and focus on higher rep sets, as well.

So, I guess the best thing you can do now is to just randomly select any muscle shirt, ignore whether the color of your pants jars the one of your top and head off to the gym... the next installment of this series won't be available before Thursday anyway. So you have plenty of time to practice your mind-to-muscle connection ;-)