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Muscle Building MATH
By: Steve Colescott, the Guerrilla
Magazine 21 #4
31 October 2017
Your maintenance calories
“There are no shortcuts to muscle
development except the intelligent use of The first decision is your daily caloric level
dietary principles and the willpower to make (how many calories a day to encourage
it happen,” says John Balik 1 (retired muscle growth and workout recovery
Publisher of Ironman, and one of the first without causing an increase in body fat). To
contest prep coaches). You have the determine your daily food intake, we must
willpower. We will provide an intelligent base that on your bodyweight, somatotype,
strategy to do it correctly. Get ready to metabolic rate and your goals.
bump your nutrition plan up to a serious
level. Our starting point will be 15 calories per
pound of bodyweight. For instance, if you
Back in the Beginner Program, you kicked weigh 200 pounds (200x15) that equals
things off by watching what you ate, taking 3,000 calories a day. The starting point for
in more frequent high-protein meals, adding women is 13.5. This is a very simplified way
some more veggies each day, and including to come up with your daily food intake, and
some basic supplements. Since you have it is fairly accurate for many lifters. But let’s
advanced to an intermediate stage, you are look at how we can personalize things. In
able to push your body to even harder the following example we are going to use a
training, so the impact you place on your male is an example, but for females just
muscle groups and (more importantly) on remember that your starting estimate is 13.5,
your nervous system and metabolism is even rather than 15.
greater. Your nutrition needs to be more
scientifically directed. We need to calculate 1) Your Somatotype: What is your body
starting amounts, test them out, and provide type? Although nearly everyone is a bit of
necessary adjustments after viewing the more than one somatotype, here is a brief
results your unique body has on this explanation of the three types described by
program. William Herbert Sheldon, Jr. in the 1940s.
“Building a great physique takes time – Ectomorph (small bone-structure,
years, not months,” says Mr. Olympia Lee thin body)
Haney. 2 “It takes hard work and dedication, Mesomorph (naturally muscular
both in the gym and in the kitchen.” Grab a build)
pencil, notepad and calculator so we can get Endomorph (thick bone structure,
to work! tendency to gain body fat)
If you feel that you are a skinny
ectomorph, add one to your starting point
(from 15 to 16 calories per pound of ectomorph. You have a slightly fast
bodyweight daily). If you are a muscular metabolism but not enough to feel like you
mesomorph, keep the starting point for now need an adjustment. You do have a hectic
at 15. If you are an endomorph, with a slow warehouse job, which wears you out a bit.
metabolism and excess body fat, subtract Here is your starting point:
one from your starting point (from 15 to 14
calories per pound of bodyweight). If you 15 (average starting point in “Daily
lean just moderately towards ecto or endo, Calorie Intake”)
you can go with just a 0.5 adjustment (to +1 (ectomorph)
14.5 or 15.5). − (metabolic rate not too fast)
+0.5 (works fairly hard, about level
2) Your Metabolic Rate: Ectomorphs tend 4)
to often have fast metabolic rates.
Endomorphs tend to have slow metabolic 16.5 x 150 pounds = 2475 calories a day
rates. Mesomorphs tend to be in the
middle...but if you feel that yours is very You have now determined a starting point
fast add one to your starting point. If you for your daily calorie level. The chart below
feel it is slow, subtract one. If it is should help you with some math.
moderate, go with the 0.5 increases or
decrease. DAILY CALORIE INTAKE (BASIC STARTING POINT)
BWT 12 12.5 13 13.5 14 14.5 15 15.5 16 16.5 17 17.5 18
3) How physically busy is your 120 1440 1500 1560 1620 1680 1740 1800 1860 1920 1980 2040 2100 2160
day? Genetics are not the only factor that
comes into play. As you would imagine, 130 1560 1625 1690 1755 1820 1885 1950 2015 2080 2145 2210 2275 2340
someone that sits at a desk for most of their 140 1680 1750 1820 1890 1960 2030 2100 2170 2240 2310 2380 2450 2520
day does not burn the same calories as 150 2250 2340 2430 2520 2610 2700 2790 2880 2970 3060 3150 3240
someone that loads heavy crates on a truck 190 2280 2375 2470 2565 2660 2755 2850 2945 3040 3135 3230 3325 3420
or chops wood for ten hours a day. Using the 200 2400 2500 2600 2700 2800 2900 3000 3100 3200 3300 3400 3500 3600
list below, rate your physical calorie-burning 210 2520 2625 2730 2835 2940 3045 3150 3255 3360 3465 3570 3675 3780
lifestyle and make the subtle adjustments
listed, if necessary. 220 2640 2750 2860 2970 3080 3190 3300 3410 3520 3630 3740 3850 3960
Adjustments Based on Experience
(long work hours, very physical
tiring work, until bedtime) As your diet progresses, we need to see if an
+1 4(pretty busy and tiring at work, adjustment of your body composition
fairly relaxing in the evening) +0.5 requires us to change your caloric level after
3 (moderately hard work some of the two weeks. If you have gained weight and it
time, relaxing half of the time) − is mostly body fat, reduce your caloric
2 (some hard work but mostly easy intake by 1 per pound of bodyweight (if you
stuff) −0.5 were at 14.5, drop to 13.5 calories per pound
1 (sedentary or just desk work, of bodyweight). If you are losing weight,
relaxing at home) −1 and it seems like it may be muscle, then
increase your caloric intake by 1 per pound
(such as jumping from 16.5 to 17.5 calories
Here is an example
Let’s say that you are 150 pounds. You per pound of bodyweight). We want your
consider yourself definitely a skinny body to experience a noticeable change so a
half-point adjustment is not necessary. A
one-point change in calories is still fairly muscle during the beginner program can
subtle. consider going to 1.75 grams per pound.
How much of that daily While some experts think a slightly lower
calorie level should be protein level is acceptable, Sarcev agrees
with some other expert coaches that two
protein? grams per pound of bodyweight is required
at the advanced level. For now, you should
progress at one of the two lower amounts,
Your daily calorie intake is made up of with 1.5 being the best intermediate level for
protein, carbohydrates, and fat intake. It is most.
best to think of these as two major nutrition
areas – construction (protein) and energy
(carbs and fat). Protein turnover (the balance BWT 1.5 1.75 2
between protein synthesis and protein 120 180 210 240
degradation) is a primary concern. Hard 130 195 227.5 260
training will increase the breakdown. 140 210 245 280
Protein, quality food, and intelligent 150 225 262.5 300
recovery will support muscle growth. We’ll 160 240 280 320
start with protein, we need to determine the
amount of protein consumed daily. The 170 255 297.5 340
main factor is your goal as far as body 180 270 315 360
composition. 190 285 332.5 380
200 300 350 400
Which of the following goals fits you? 210 315 367.5 420
220 330 385 440
Muscle building starting point So, if you are a 170-pounder wanting to
1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight continue building your physique as an
Muscle building and fat burning intermediate, 255 grams of protein daily
1.75 grams per pound of bodyweight should be a major goal of your daily
Advanced level training nutrition intake.
2 grams per pound of bodyweight
“If you train [hard], you are going to The energy macros
absolutely break down the muscle tissue,”
says retired pro Milos Sarcev. 3 “You are Once you know your daily calorie intake
going to lose all of those amino acids. If you and your daily protein intake, we need to do
do not replenish it, you are going to get the math to see what will be our start-up
smaller than previously.” One gram per energy macros (carbohydrates and fats). The
pound of bodyweight is the minimum for the balance that we find most efficient is
average person involved in weight training. dividing your energy macros into 30-50%
For those trying to build muscle, 1.5 grams carbohydrates in proportion to 50-70% fats.
per pound of bodyweight is a good starting
point. Those whose primary goal is to burn Let’s say you are a 210-pound lifter that
body fat or that have found that they have determined that 15.5 calories per pound
added an exceptional amount of strength and of bodyweight was going to be your start-
210 (bodyweight) x 15.5 = 3255 that you are weak and rundown if you go on
calories a day low carbs? If those are the case, then you
210 x 1.5 grams = 315 grams of should consider the 50/50 balance as a
protein a day starting point. Most people should start out
315 x 4 = 1260 daily calories made with the 40/60 ratio.
up from protein
3255 (total calories) I threw a lot of information your way, and it
− 1260 (protein calories) gets a bit complicated because you need to
= 1995 >(energy (carb and fat) do the math since I want it to be as
calories) personalized as possible. When you are done
Math tells this lifter that they jot down your number of grams of protein,
have 1995 calories devoted to energy carbohydrates and fat. Multiply the grams of
macros. We need to determine how many of protein (x4), carb (x4), and fat (x9)...and add
those are devoted to carbs and how much is them all together. Does this equal your
devoted to fat intake. A good starting point estimated calorie starting point? Hopefully,
for most lifters would be a 40% carb to 60% you added it all up correctly!
fat intake. With this calorie amount, we
would get 798 calories from carbohydrates, Best protein sources
(divide that by 4), and 200 grams (we will
round up) consumed daily. For fat intake, With that formula, you should now
they get 1197 calories from fat (divided by understand the basis of a starting diet
9, since fat has more calories per gram than
protein or carbs), and 133 grams of healthy program. The next step is planning how the
fats. grams of protein, carb and fat will be spread
throughout your menu. “Eat more but
smaller meals throughout the day,” says Mr.
CARB TO FAT RATIO Carb calories Olympia Dorian Yates.4 “I eat 5-6 small
(grams) Fat calories (grams) meals spaced every 2.5-3 hours apart.” This
30% carbs / 70% fat 598.5 (150 gr)
1396.5 (155 gr) strategy obviously worked for him and
40% carbs / 60% fat 798 (199.5 hundreds of thousands of other gym-goers.
gr) 1197 (133 gr)
50% carbs / 50% fat 997.5 (249 The number one rule will be to consume
protein frequently throughout the day in
gr) 997.5 (111 gr)
As you can see, we also list some slightly multiple doses. “To grow, you need to
altered starting point adjustments – one maintain a constant surplus of growth
providing slightly lower carbs and the other nutrients in your system,” says IFBB pro
a slightly higher percentage of carbs to fat. Henderson Thorne.5 “This means tipping
the scales towards protein, with support
What should you consider before choosing?
Do you have a high body fat level (over from adequate carbohydrates for energy to
24% for men, over 34% for women)? If so, avoid the scavenging of protein for that
then a slightly reduced carb (30/70) energy purpose.” Protein will be the most important
macro level might be a good idea. Are you nutrient to each of the meals, regardless if
your primary goal is building muscle in the
sensitive to carbs? Again, this would be a
good reason to start at the 30/70 balance. On off-season or maintaining muscle while
the other hand, are you lean and thin- dieting off body fat.
skinned with a fast metabolism? Do you feel
Common whole food sources for protein at The customer-base of Beverly International
each bodybuilding meal includes red meat has experienced great results by adding
(beef, buffalo/bison), chicken, turkey, fish, desiccated liver and amino acids intake
eggs or protein shakes. Dairy products throughout the day. This philosophy goes
(milk, cheese, cream, yogurt) are also back decades driven by a head-of-his-time
protein sources but need to be limited for contest prep trainer Vince Gironda.8 “Keep
some people, due to intolerance (milk your body constantly supplied with protein
allergies). so you are in an anabolic or growing state,”
said the Iron Guru. “That means that you
Protein shakes serve two primary purposes. should keep your body saturated with
They provide higher quality protein sources protein...and the way you do that is have
(if made by a trustworthy company) and liver tablets every three hours.”
allow high-protein intake with less time
spent in the kitchen. At the very least, you Mr. America winner Dale Adrian
need to include one protein shake a day, agrees.9 “Desiccated liver, in my opinion, is
although at least two shakes daily makes one of the most valuable supplements a
more sense. You should go with either person can take, not only for bodybuilding
Ultimate Muscle Protein (UMP) or Muscle but for anyone, especially those involved in
Provider. strenuous sports.” The advancement of
amino acid tablets, with the highest being
Muscle Provider is a whey protein peptide-bonded aminos for maximum
hydrolysate and isolate blend that is very absorption, allows for great results from a
quickly absorbed. This makes it perfect for small serving of 3-5 Ultra 40 desiccated
right after your workout. “Hydrolyzed, what liver tablets with 3-5 Mass Amino Acids.
does it mean?” says retired IFBB pro and
contest prep expert Milos The ideal protein intake daily would include
Sarcev.6 “Hydrolyzed is broken down. two to four whole food protein servings, and
Hydrolyzed whey is very rapid. It is high two to three protein shakes, backed-up by
quality and I would use it immediately after liver and amino tablets (3-5 tablets, 5-6
a workout and you can use it anytime you times a day). This obviously varies by how
need quick amino acids.” UMP is sustained- often you can, need to, (and prefer) to eat
release 80:20 blend of casein:whey (this daily. The other addition would include free-
means it provides some immediate quality form amino acids (Density, Muscle Mass or
protein and also a slow, extended protein Muscularity) during and after training in
source which is good before bed or anytime order to encourage optimal growth and
during the day). Glutamine Select sipped during training.
Swedish and Scandinavian Champion/IFBB Choosing carb sources
pro Mats Kardell says, 7 “All serious
bodybuilders follow high-protein diets, and “You need to earn your carbs,” says top
most also supplement their diets with amino
acid capsules or concentrated protein training expert Charles Poliquin.10 “Various
factors will determine how many grams of
powders.” This should come as no surprise carbohydrate you can afford to consume.
since a high level of essential amino acids in The most relevant are: you’re levels of
the bloodstream limits muscle breakdown muscle mass, the volume and intensity of
and boosts muscle growth.
your training, your percentage of body fat bananas, cherries, grapes, mangoes, pears,
and your insulin sensitivity.” melons and pineapples. Blueberries,
blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries
We will divide our carbohydrates into three are low in carb calories, high in delicious
categories: starchy carbs, fibrous carbs and flavor, and provide an antioxidant reward.
fruit/berries. Tomatoes (which we often forget are fruit)
and grapefruit also are low in carbs and high
Common diet choices of starchy carbs in nutrition.
include potatoes, rice (white, brown,
basmati, jasmine or wild), yams or sweet Healthy fat consumption
potatoes, oatmeal, cream of rice, or grits.
Starchy carb choices are best placed near It seems that eating fat would make us fat.
training. Red beans and rice is a good However, the truth is that using fats as an
combo since the lentils lower the glycemic
index and the combo of the two provides a energy source does not necessarily promote
the storage of fat. High calories and carb
better amino acid balance. Quinoa is an levels often encourage body fat increases.
ancient grain that blends protein with a carb Consuming high calorie intakes of both
source. Couscous tends to be lower in energy macros (carbs and fat) together will
calories than rice or quinoa, contains
protein, and is a good flavor variety. Sweet also encourage an increase in body fat.
Proper fats are needed for health (hence the
potatoes and yams have a lower glycemic phrase essential fatty acids).
index (particularly if boiled rather than
Excellent fat sources
Fibrous vegetables are also beneficial due to
being major sources of vitamin, minerals, Beverly’s EFA Gold will ensure that your
and fiber while having psychological value essential fat needs are covered. Three soft
(you can eat a lot if you wish!). “Raw and gels per serving (once or twice daily) will
steamed vegetables are basically free ensure a healthier balance of proper fats.
calories for bodybuilders,” says Ms. EFA Gold includes fish oils (EPA and
Olympia, Kim Chizevsky.11“The benefits DHA), flaxseed oil, borage seed oil, and a
they give your body more than compensate great supply of vitamin E, omega-3, omega-
for the calories and carbohydrates you’re 6, and omega-9 fatty acids.
adding to your daily nutrition.” Common
choices include broccoli, green beans, Other healthy fat sources are avocados,
Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, asparagus, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, organic red
bell peppers, onions, cabbage, and green palm oil, healthy nuts (macadamias,
salads. almonds, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts and
cashews), grass-fed butter, and extra virgin
We mentioned the final carb category as olive oil.
being fruit and berries. These need to be
chosen wisely. Avoid fruit juice as they Prepping and scheduling
remove the fiber, decrease nutrients, and
make it an extremely high glycemic index your meals
beverage. Fruit that should be limited for
this reason includes: apples, oranges,
We will be putting the same type of This provides calories, amino acids, fiber,
planning into our food intake. When we vitamins and minerals, while encouraging
categorize different food combinations here the use of body fat and healthy fats as
are the most common meal groupings. primary fuel sources. Some examples
flank steak over mixed green salad,
with mac nut oil and red wine
grilled chicken, steamed veggies,
ahi tuna grilled over kale and veggies
with coconut oil
These are examples. You should
personalize your menu based on your goals,
Protein Shake preferences, and the number of daily meals
you prefer. Some people might like to eat
five times daily; others prefer seven or eight
Lean Protein/Starchy carbs/Fibrous meals a day (especially those pursuing
Vegetables: This common meal involves weight gain or heavyweight and super-
mixing together a protein source, some heavyweight men). The basics are: two or
starchy carbs, and fiber-rich veggie sources
while keeping it fairly low in fat. Some three protein shakes a day, half of the meals
examples would be: whole food protein and starchy carbs, a
couple meals protein foods and healthy fats
(with salad or fibrous veggies). The starchy
grilled chicken, rice and broccoli carb versions are near the training session.
sirloin steak, sweet potatoes and On non-training days, they will be placed on
ground beef, quinoa and steamed the same times they would occur during
training days. You have protein throughout
the day (boosted by amino acid/desiccated
liver if you want to maximize growth).
Lean Protein/Healthy Fats: Quite simply,
this is often a typical nutrient-rich but low- Against much conventional wisdom, you
carb meal (often to kick off your morning)
to drive your daily growth while continuing should consider limiting starchy carbs early
in the day. The reason for this is that our
your fat-burning. Some examples would be:
body wakes up with a fat-burning process in
place using fats as its energy source. Your
steak and eggs energy level should be strong and you will
omelet (with turkey bacon, cheese, be in a state in which you are burning fat.
You need to avoid consuming large amounts
of starchy carbohydrates (or even more so
Lean Protein/Salad or Fibrous simple sugars) while consuming protein and
Vegetables/Healthy Fats: These meals are healthy fats (steak and eggs or a cheese
often later in the day, low in carbs, fairly omelet).
high in healthy fats, high in (an almost
unlimited quantity of) fibrous vegetables.
It is best to schedule your starchy carbs This is why some of the optional
around your training, with no significant supplements, if you want to take
amounts of carbs in the other meals. For Intermediate training a bit further..., would
most people two servings is ideal. If you feel include branched-chain amino acids during
the need to have three servings of starchy training and before bed...either Muscle Mass
carbs, you can consider smaller amounts or Muscularity. Densities are high-quality
(but still keep them no more than one essential amino acid tablets (and are
serving prior to the gym and two servings definitely even more useful to those on a
after training). lower calorie diet). Muscularity has some
added compounds in order to help spare
The exception would be those with fast muscle loss from hard training and reduced
metabolisms trying to gain lean weight on calorie dieting. If fat loss is a primary goal,
their thin body. This ectomorphic crowd Quadracarn is also a great addition
may need starchier carb meals and should providing four different versions of carnitine
choose Mass Maker Ultra as twice daily which helps fat loss, testosterone production
proteins shake (one scoop of MMU and one and physique enhancement.
scoop of UMP). In fact, this group will
require more daily meals (and snacks) in Supplements to Increase
Your Gains beyond the
Serious supplements to Intermediate Level
increase your gains
Aminos & Liver throughout the Day
In addition to the meals and protein shakes,
other supplements should be placed in your Mass and Ultra 40 (aminos and liver)
schedule. A basic multi-vitamin/mineral Take 3-5 tablets of each with (or between)
such as Super Pak or FitTabs should be a meals. The goal is 1 tablet of each for every
part of your breakfast. EFA Gold should be 10 lbs of bodyweight daily.
included at least once daily (with breakfast
is a good idea) to balance your essential fats.
Glutamine Select is a great workout Optional: Density (essential amino acids) –
beverage to be sipped between sets, 3-5 tablets three times a day.
containing not just glutamine, but branched
chain amino acids in a powdered form to BCAAs during Workouts
mix with water.
Muscle Mass – Take 3-5 tabs every 10-15
minutes during your workout until you reach
Charles Poliquin says, “In the recent past, I
found that 40 grams of essential aminos with your target goal. 1 tablet per 10 lbs of
an additional 40 grams of BCAAs worked bodyweight will give you the .25g dosage
recommended by Dr. Serrano.
best to increase my gains in the
gyms,”12 Famous nutrition guru and protein
expert Dr Eric Serrano recommends And/or
consuming BCAAs during your workouts.
He suggests a dose of .25 – .35 grams of Glutamine Select – Mix 2-3 scoops in your
BCAAs per Kg of bodyweight. water bottle and sip throughout your
workout. Can be stacked with Muscle Mass,
3 scoops of Glutamine Select equates to 10 ratio to find out what works perfectly for
Muscle Mass tablets. you. This diet gives you a great starting
Fat Loss, Testosterone
Production and Physique References
1) Balik, John. “The Nutrition
Enhancement Counselor,” Muscle Builder/Power,
2) Haney, Lee. “Ask Lee,” Flex
Quadracarn – Take 3 tabs three times daily Magazine, February, 2017
on training days and 3 tabs twice daily on 3) Sarcev, Milos. “Secrets of the
Pros” video series
4) Yates, Dorian. “Get Lean
(Supplemental Guide),” Muscle &
Fitness, September 1993
Super Pak – pack per day with breakfast; 5) Thorne, Henderson. “Eat for
or FitTabs – 2 tablets with breakfast and 2 Growth,”
tablets with dinner.
Flex, December 1994
5) Sarcev, Milos. “"Sports Nutrition
EFA Gold (essential fatty acids) – 3 soft gels Seminar” (YouTube 7/28/13)
with 1 or more meals daily.
7) Kardell, Mats. “Flex Notes:
Protein Supplements,” Flex,
So there is a very comprehensive diet, December 1989
explained in detail, to take you from the 8) Gironda, Vince. “Vince Gironda
Beginning Bodybuilding Phase all the way Nutrition Copyright Robert Torres”
up to the Advanced Phase in your future. As (YouTube 3/7/2014)
an Intermediate bodybuilder, you will learn 9) Adrian, Dale. “Dale Adrian Raps
the precise amount of protein, carbs and fat on Developing Symmetrical Legs,”
to get in the best shape possible. Keep in (not certain of publisher or date)
mind that you need to check your 10) Poliquin, Charles. “My Take on
bodyweight and composition every two Carbs” www.StrengthSensei.com
weeks. This will tell you if you need to 11) Chizevsky, Kim. “Ask Ms.
increase or decrease your Daily Calorie Olympia,” Flex, January 2001
Intake. As you pack on more muscle, you 12) Poliquin, Charles. “Protein
will need to keep each powerful muscle Intake for Strength and Mass Gains –
fiber well fed. You may also learn that you Updated”
need to adjust the balance of your carb-to-fat
The Gamble of Fatal Gear Usage
by Anders JP Eskilsson
Competitive bodybuilding at its highest level early. We are talking about extremely tragic
demands tremendous discipline. It’s much situations where heart failure and AAS may very
harder than anyone outside of the bodybuilding well be the strong contributing factor leading to
world can imagine; it’s a 24hour lifestyle which is their deaths.
as challenging as any elite sport out there –
In regards to Rich Piana’s and Dallas
which also means that the infamous PED’s
MacCarver’s tragic deaths in 2017, the critique
(performance enhancement drugs) are quite
grew even stronger. In addition, I recently
listened to a lecture by an expert in heart
conditions Dr. Thomas O’Connor and he
However, in the last 6-7 years or so, critiques explained plain and simple that as of today there
against drug usage like anabolic steroids (AAS) are scientific correlations which prove that AAS
have been raised higher than ever before. The usage can lead to cardiovascular fatal diseases
reasons are mainly because the bodybuilding – even at a very young age.
community has seen far too many veterans of
the sport as well as young athletes die way too
It is also important to point out that there are show themselves some respect by getting blood
medical scientific studies that prove that AAS work done on a regular basis. Another thing
users who don’t have a genetic predisposition when it comes to being a more healthy
for cardiovascular diseases have died from heart bodybuilder is to aim for the types of physiques
failures. However, there are still a bunch of which are more athletic which to some extent
(Baghdad bobs or agents of chaos) out doesn’t need the same amount of gear and
there…who probably got a couple of deaths to various kinds like bodybuilding without limits.
add to their resume… who still stand behind Additionally, it is here the divisions of Classic
quotes like “bodybuilding has never killed Physique and Classic Bodybuilding comes into
anyone” …even to this day. Why are they so play.
ignorant may someone ask?
The problem with natural bodybuilding, at least
Well first off they are heinous, but also in regards to where natural sport science stands
delusional, ego maniacs who don’t want to lose today, wouldn’t create the (wow factor) among
their careers because they partially feed on fans and audience at professional shows, at
tragedy and would also lose clients and their least not in general. I personally think that where
little spotlight they have in the industry. are far away from people clapping their hands
and shouting in front of a stage with natural
After all the tragedy that occurred during the last
athletes are far away. But again, steps into a
year a legit question is: How can the
healthier direction have been taken, and that is a
bodybuilding community and the competitive
form survive and prosper in a healthy way? Well,
the positive thing is that we have probably In contrast, for anyone who really thinks that
already taken the first step! The information they can go all the way and are super
about the dangers about using gear is spreading passionate about becoming a great bodybuilder
faster and the critical masses within the and plans to begin a cycle, be careful and treat
bodybuilding community are waking up and yourself with some respect, do your blood work
many are raising their voices against the and talk to professionals in regards to usage –
reckless use of performance enhancers. because the quote “bodybuilding never killed
anyone” was buried since a long time ago.
The culture has to really change and for those
who still want to use gear, have to be smart and
ANABOLIC STEROIDS AND LIVER TOXICITY
by Anthony Roberts
Are anabolic steroids liver-toxic?
How toxic are they, potentially?
Back when John Ziegler first introduced Dianabol (aka methandrostenolone or metandienone) to
American athletes, a dose of 5-10 milligrams per day was cautiously suggested as an effective
dose…and this is exactly the dose most athletes took. National and international records in weightlifting
were set on 5-10 milligrams, daily, and for the next few years few (if any) athletes experimented with
higher doses. In fact, ten milligrams was the recommended therapeutic dose for males. Many athletes
feared that using a higher dose would be hepatotoxic (liver toxic).
Medals were earned and records smashed with 5-10mgs/day, and the clinical results were fantastic.
A study performed in 1968 on Dianabol examined 125 young adults, each receiving 3mgs 3x/week, and
showed a nearly 3lb gain over 3 months. While this isn’t spectacular, we are talking about am
approximate dose of 1.25mgs/day, without training. When combined with training the gain was over three
and a half pounds. Obviously 3mgs 3x/week is a ludicrously small dose, and it’s surprising they gained
any weight at all. A study published one year later (in 1969) on 24 men with no prior weight training
experience showed a five and a half pound body weight gain in just three weeks, using just ten milligrams
per day. A 1971 study using the same dose, was performed in 18 experienced weightlifters, which netted
them an average of eight and a half pounds of body weight, this time over four weeks. Subsequent
research on much higher doses failed to produce proportionately greater results:
Arnold won the 1970 Mr. Olympia contest on similarly low doses of Dianabol, and not much else. But by
the early ’80s, doctors were routinely prescribing 20mgs/day to athletes and bodybuilders. Fast-forward to
the present day and most underground labs produce a 50mg pill, and very few bodybuilders would
consider using it alone or at a lower dose. But regardless of whether we are talking about the 1950s or
1980s, athletes and bodybuilders didn’t use anabolic steroids year-round, and especially not orals; long
off-periods were interspersed with more brief, intense, pre-event cycling. Back then, the precise effects of
oral steroids on the liver were unknown and most users were conservative in their cycles.
Hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity, remember?) is still a concern, so many limit their use of oral steroids to just
the beginning (or end) of a cycle, and most would avoid using more than one at a time (precontest
bodybuilders are a different story). So what makes steroids (potentially) hepatotoxic?
To create Dianabol, a double bond is added to the base structure of testosterone at the c1-2 position
(blue) and alpha alkylation (red) is substituted at the 17 position (uncreatively known as C-17 alpha
alkylation) – this is the most common way of making a steroid orally active…and liver-toxic. In the case of
Dianabol, if an undeclynate ester were applied instead of alpha alkylation to make it an injectable, we
would be looking at Equipoise.
The additional double bond isn’t what we’re going to concern ourselves with, but rather the introduction of
alkylation at the 17th carbon position (which puts Dianabol in the category of C-17 alpha alkylated
steroids). When I look at methyltestosterone (the same structure without that bond), I see a more toxic,
less effective anabolic. Therefore, I would imagine that the c1-2 bond doesn’t contribute significantly to a
toxic effect, and may actually lessen it (speculation on my part).
When you ingest Dianabol (or any C-17 alpha alkylated steroid), it travels to the intestines, is absorbed
into portal circulation, then transported to the liver. The liver is the primary deactivator (and metabolizer)
of androgens like testosterone. It functions as the body’s filtration system. If you were a steroid, and there
was one place you’d want to avoid, it’s the liver. But this is exactly where most oral steroids end up.
An exception to this rule is Andriol, which is testosterone with an undecanoate ester, an unusual oral
steroid that makes use of a gel cap and avoids the liver through being absorbed into the lymphatic
system. So it’s not liver toxic – but it’s not useful, either. Despite being testosterone, it’s both weak (users
report mild gains at best), and expensive (a week’s worth could buy a two month supply of the injectable
form). Still, it’s an improvement over just eating raw testosterone. An alternative way to deliver
testosterone orally would obviously be to alkylate it at the 17th carbon position thereby creating the
aforementioned methyltestosterone (and of course, another way to deliver testosterone would be to inject
it, perhaps with 17 beta esterification and a propionate ester). Of note here is that it is not the
testosterone itself that can potentially cause problems with the liver – because studies performed on
injectable and topical testosterone do not show the same liver enzyme elevation as seen with
methyltestosterone (in the chart below, L.V. represents anabolic potency, and S.V./V.P. represent
Another exception to the rule of alpha alkylating steroids for oral use is Primobolan tablets (methenolone
acetate). This form of Primobolan is alkylated at the first carbon position and has 17 beta esterification
(an ester, again similar to what we’d see on an injectable steroid). But again, as we saw with Andriol, this
is a very weak and very expensive anabolic steroid. Proviron (mesterolone) has a similar modification at
the first carbon position, and again, it’s a very weak anabolic steroid.
If we were to list all of the oral anabolic steroids that are not C-17 alpha alkylated, we’d have a very short
list of relatively weak and expensive drugs (which don’t impact the liver greatly, if at all). This is why C-17
alpha alklyation is the preferred method of making anabolic steroids orally active. Unfortunately, this is
also the modification that causes them to stress the liver. But within this set of oral steroids, there is a
great deal of disparity in their effect on the liver. Some users have experienced jaundice, peliosis
hepatitis, hepatic tumors, hepatocellular adenomas, and elevated liver enzymes….while others have
reported no adverse-effects at all.
There is a more recent school of thought that indicates activation of the androgen receptors in the liver
itself (aggravated by the potency of the steroid), and inducement of reactive oxygen species (ROS) are
causative factors in the liver toxicity of a given oral anabolic steroid – and this may be true, because
something like methyltrienolone is incredibly potent at lower doses than any other steroid, but is very liver
toxic, while Anavar (oxandrolone) isn’t very liver toxic at all, and requires significantly higher doses for
users to experience tangible results.
However, elevated liver enzymes are simply an indication of the liver performing its function and breaking
down the steroids being run through it, not a sign of dysfunction – because good evidence exists to state
that simply exercising causes similar changes to liver function in terms of elevating specific enzymes:
“Prior reports of anabolic steroid-induced hepatotoxicity based on elevated aminotransferase levels may
have been overstated, because no exercising subjects, including steroid users, demonstrated hepatic
dysfunction based on GGT levels. Such reports may have misled the medical community to emphasize
steroid-induced hepatotoxicity….” (Clin J Sport Med. 1999 Jan;9(1):34-9.)
However, despite the fact that the overall risk of oral steroids being truly liver-toxic may be overstated, I
believe it’s good practice to err on the side of caution and mimic some of the more old-school practices:
limit oral use to brief periods (or stick to injectables), and definitely avoid stacking too many orals at the
1. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2002 Oct;35(4):350-2. Androgenic/Anabolic steroid-induced toxic hepatitis.
Stimac D, Milić S, Dintinjana RD, Kovac D, Ristić S.
2. Clin Ther. 2001 Jun;23(6):789-801; discussion 771. Review of oxymetholone: a 17alpha-alkylated
anabolic-androgenic steroid.Pavlatos AM1, Fultz O, Monberg MJ, Vootkur A, Pharmd.
3. HIV Hotline. 1998 Dec;8(5-6):10-1. Does the choice of alpha-AAS really make a difference?
4. Minerva Med. 1971 Jun 27;62(51):2605-11. [Hepatotoxicity of anabolic steroids]. Rozman C, Urbano A,
5. J Gastroenterol 2000;35(7):557-62, Multiple hepatic adenomas caused by long-term administration of
androgenic steroids for aplastic anemia in association with familial adenomatous polyposis. Nakao A,
Sakagami K, Nakata Y, Komazawa K, Amimoto T, Nakashima K, Isozaki H, Takakura N, Tanaka N.
6. Medical Hypotheses 93 (2016) 150–153. Anabolic androgenic steroid-induced hepatotoxicity. Peter
Bond, William Llewellyn, Peter Van Mol
7. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Feb;31(2):243-50, Rat liver lysosomal and mitochondrial activities are
modified by anabolic-androgenic steroids. Molano F, Saborido A, Delgado J, Moran M, Megias A.
8. Lancet 1979 Nov 24;2(8152):1120-3, Hepatic angiosarcoma associated with androgenic-anabolic
steroids. Falk H, Thomas LB, Popper H, Ishak KG.
9. J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods 1995 Aug;33(4):187-95, Toxic effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids in
primary rat hepatic cell cultures. Welder AA, Robertson JW, Melchert RB.
10. Arch Toxicol 1999 Nov;73(8-9):465-72, Evaluation of acute and chronic hepatotoxic effects exerted by
anabolic-androgenic steroid stanozolol in adult male rats. Boada LD, Zumbado M, Torres S, Lopez A,
Diaz-Chico BN, Cabrera JJ, Luzardo OP.
11. Clin J Sport Med 1999 Jan;9(1):34-9, Anabolic steroid-induced hepatotoxicity: is it overstated?
Dickerman RD, Pertusi RM, Zachariah NY, Dufour DR, McConathy WJ.
12. Int J Sports Med 1996 Aug;17(6):429-33, Body composition, cardiovascular risk factors and liver
function in long-term androgenic-anabolic steroids using bodybuilders three months after drug withdrawal.
Hartgens F, Kuipers H, Wijnen JA, Keizer HA.
Effect of steroids Conversely, can you ever look like Arnold
by training for hours every day, but
omitting the steroids?
and exercise on
The answers to these questions may
muscle mass and surprise you.
strength One of the best studies on this fascinating
topic was conducted over 20 years ago by
Bhasin and colleagues and published in
the prestigious New England Journal of
by Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D. Medicine.
The protocol of this study was beautiful in
A group of 43 normal men (as in not
athletes) between the ages of 19-40 years
were randomly assigned to one of four
groups: placebo with no exercise
(NoT+NoE), testosterone with no exercise
(T+NoE), placebo plus exercise (NoT+E),
and testosterone plus exercise (T+E).
Participants received injections of 600 mg
of testosterone enanthate or placebo
weekly for 10 weeks. For context, this
The use of anabolic steroids has been dose of testosterone is six times higher
observed in essentially all levels of sport – than that usually given as replacement
from the high-school football team to therapy in men with hypogonadism. The
professional sports. In professional body men in the exercise groups performed
building, steroid use is as much part of the standardized weight-lifting exercises three
sport as is the training, tanning, and body times weekly.
waxing. Rumors also swirl around male
Hollywood actors who must get in To avoid the potential confounding of
incredible shape to convincingly play a changes in diet, all men were instructed to
superhero within tight timelines. follow a standardized daily diet with a pre-
set amount of calories that were regularly
Have you ever wondered how much of an tracked using diaries.
advantage steroid use provides when it
comes to body composition, muscle As expected, testosterone levels
mass, and athletic performance? increased dramatically in both the T+NoE
(>5-fold) and T+E groups (>7-fold).
For instance, does simply taking Numerically, testosterone was also
exogenous testosterone and sitting on the increased slightly in the noT+E group
couch turn you into The Rock? (557->667ng/dl), although this was not
NERD ALERT: Read the following tenderness were reported by some of the
paragraph if you like details otherwise men.
skip below. As you’d expect, due to
negative feedback of all that excess Moreover, it is well established that long-
testosterone on the hypothalamic-pituitary term use of these drugs can potentially
system, levels of luteinizing hormone cause serious adverse effects on the
(stimulates endogenous production of cardiovascular system, fertility, prostate,
testosterone) and follicle stimulating lipid metabolism, and insulin sensitivity.
hormone (stimulates sperm production)
were significantly reduced in both T The obvious take away from this study is
groups. This explains why steroid users that exogenous testosterone is clearly a
can become infertile while taking steroids, potent stimulant of muscle growth and
and why they experience a drastic crash strength increase. Although the results of
of testosterone levels upon stopping the this trial my dismay you, this study helps
injections (the body’s own testosterone to understand the popularity of steroid use
production gets essentially shut off). in sport, entertainment, and even among
ambitious gym rats.
Here’s where things get interesting.
Men treated with testosterone who did not
work out (T+NoE) gained nearly double
the muscle mass as did those who
received placebo injections but regularly
exercised (NoT+E; 3.2 kg vs 1.9 kg
increase). Of course, the increase in
muscle mass among the men in the
testosterone-plus-exercise group dwarfed
both these groups, averaging 6.1 kg.
In terms of strength, the men in the
testosterone-alone (T+NoE) and placebo-
plus-exercise (NoT+E) groups had similar
increases in the one-rep max weights
lifted in the squat (19 and 20%,
respectively) and bench press exercises
(10 and 11%, respectively). Men in the
testosterone + exercise group basically
gained double the strength increase in
both the squat and bench press exercises
(38% and 22%, respectively).
For someone who’s been working out
without the help of steroids for many
years (like myself), this finding can be
Now it’s not all rainbows and unicorns for
the men on testosterone; acne and breast
The 6 Main Types Of Strongman Events
(And How To Train For Them In The
Strength Training, Coaching
Click Here to Try Our Free Strongman Workouts
When people ask me what strongman is, my reply tends to vary
depending on who I’m talking to. It’s a brilliantly effective aspect of strength
training, but my mum isn’t going to understand that. So to her, I explain
(present tense, as I’m sure she’ll ask yet again) that it’s what she sees the big
guys do on telly. “You know, pulling trucks, Atlas stones, deadlifting cars.” And
before you say anything, its okay, I’ve already spent the past few years
explaining to her what deadlifts are.
Simplifying strongman like this has got me thinking, though. It’s useful to be
able to simplify what strongman training is in terms that are relevant to the
person on the receiving end of the information. In this case, that’s you. So I’m
going to assume you are a gym-goer, and I’ll break the events down in
terms of things that you can do in your gym.
Perhaps the best way to separate strongman training out is to break it down
into categories of movement. This type of categorization also helps when
working out how to program and practice each event. Within each category,
I will give you options for training these events in a standard gym
setting. These are not ideal - nothing beats the real deal - but if you want to
train either for strongman or in a strongman manner with limited resources,
these options will give you some ideas.
Strongman Event Type #1: Squatting
Typical strongman variations: Fat bar squats, squats with increasing load,
squats at set weight for reps
Gym training ideas: In training, mix it up between back squats, front squats,
and Zercher squats. They all have their place in terms of transfer over to
strongman. However, transfer of strength aside, you'll only ever perform back
squats in a strongman event. Hit heavy triples and doubles regularly to get
used to shifting heavy loads. In terms of the rep work, twenty-rep squats
would be a useful place to start. Hit these once a week, upping the weight
each week. Squat deep, squat heavy, and squat often.
Strongman Event Type #2: Deadlifting
Typical strongman variations: 15” deadlifts, car deadlift for reps, deadlift for
Gym training ideas: Strongmen pick stuff up off the floor in a variety of ways.
Your training needs to match that. Use fat grips on a barbell to train grip
strength and get used to picking up something of a larger circumference than
a standard barbell. Deadlifting using a trap bar can be a useful way of training
for events where the deadlift handles are either side of you, as they are on
some car deadlifts. If you don’t have a trap bar, use a pair of heavy dumbbells
for reps. To train for 15” deadlifts, you could perform partial deadlifts from the
pins, or if you don’t have a power rack, you could pull off a raised platform
made from stacked weight plates. This is going to be beneficial in terms of
both strength and recovery, too, as opposed to pulling from the floor all the
Strongman Event Type #3: Clean and Press
Typical strongman variations: Log for max weight, axle for reps, circus
dumbbell for reps
Gym training ideas: The shape and size of the strongman equipment used
for this event is the key factor. Fat Gripz, or similar, can come in useful to
approximate this. Wrap one of these grips around a dumbbell to simulate a
circus dumbbell. Or wrap a pair around a barbell to simulate the grip of a thick
axle bar. The other disadvantage of an axle bar is that it’s a solid lump of
metal, so there are no rotating sleeves. (But then again, most of the barbells
I’ve found in standard gyms barely spin anyway.) It’s worth getting used to the
continental clean too. Perform these for maximum reps in sixty to 75 seconds.
It’s a little harder to train for the log within the gym. However, heavy power
clean and presses will help. Make sure to press or push press rather than jerk
the weight overhead, as you’re going to need the raw shoulder strength
to drive that log off your chest. (Ever tried jerking a log? Not as easy at you
may think when you’re shouting at the big lads on the telly to use their legs.)
Strongman Event Type #4: Loading
Typical strongman variations: Stones loading, sandbag loading, keg
loading (for time)
Gym training ideas: Sandbags and kegs are a little easier to get hold of
than Atlas stones. (Please, tell me you saw what I did there?) Many gyms
these days have Powerbags or similar items, which are as close as you are
going to get to a sandbag within a gym. If your gym does have these, avoid
using the handles - treat them like an actual sandbag. With a keg or sandbag
event you are likely to have to carry the objects a short distance before you
load them. For training the carrying aspect in a limited space, even holding
your sandbags in the manner you would carry and walk with them is going to
be of benefit. For the loading aspect, you’re unlikely to have a platform to load
onto. But if you have something to load over (even a barbell set high on a
squat rack), that’s a decent alternative.
Strongman Event Type #5: Carrying
Typical strongman variations: Yoke carry, farmer’s walk, duck walk (for time
Gym training ideas: For me, heavy carries are the epitome of strongman.
The definition of moving heavy weight over long distances quickly. Get outside
if you can. A barbell on your back will simulate a yoke, and a pair of heavy
dumbbells or kettlebells in your hands will be as good as you can get
for farmer’s walks. Inside the gym, if space is limited, so are your options. You
need to be able to move with these things. Failing that, get those heavy
weights on your back or in your hands and hold them there. Don’t go to failure
with this - it’s dangerous and ineffective. Instead, try and simulate the time
you’ll be carrying the weights in competition. This might be just a few seconds
in an event for time, or for sixty seconds but with breaks in an event for
Strongman Event Type #6: Flipping or Pulling
Three strongman variations: Tire flip for reps, Fingal’s Fingers, truck pull for
Gym training ideas: It’s perhaps a little unfair to group flipping and pulling
into one. Having said that, they both involve shifting heavy weight over
distance without carrying, so they are related. Each is also much more
metabolically taxing than you might expect if you’ve not done them before.
Prowlers and sleds are becoming more commonplace in gyms and are
excellent tools for general strength, conditioning, and training for these types
of events. Attach a rope to a sled or prowler and pull it arm over arm. Or
attach a weight belt to the rope and pull it behind you like you would with a
truck. For the flips, a few sets of six to eight fast power clean and jerks with
sixty-second rest periods in between are a useful gym based training protocol.
The clean and jerk simulates the up-and-under of the tire flip, and also
trains explosive hip power. The rep and rest scheme helps to get you ready
for the muscular and metabolic effects.
This is not an exhaustive list of types of strongman event, or complete list of
ways you can train for them. I strongly recommend that you take every
opportunity to play with real strongman gear when you can. However,
these are good and viable gym-based alternatives for the main types of
If this has captured your interest, and you would like to add even more
structure to your strongman training, check out my free strongman
programming. The first two workouts each week are perfect for those who
have little or no access to strongman equipment, as they are entirely gym
based. For the event day each week, simply switch the actual events for the
suggestions above. The event categories even match up to the ones in this
article. Don’t say I’m not good to you!
How to Train For Strongman at Any Gym
By Nicole DeMicco
Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, Strongman, Recipes
Strongman events are unlike other strength sports because they don't
have set movements or events. There was a time when events were
unannounced prior to a strongman competition. Folks would find out what
torture the event coordinator had in store for them when they arrived. These
days, competitors have a general idea of the events and weights that will be
used in advance of the competition. But there’s no guarantee that you will be
able to get your hands on the actual implements, or even a similar piece of
equipment, before contest day.
That being said, there is no excuse for showing up to a strongman
competition unprepared. Plenty of events can be simulated in an average
“globo-gym” setting. I spent the past year training at a Retro Fitness four days
per week and only one day of strongman work on the weekend. In this article,
I will go over some of the main events in a typical strongman competition, and
how to simulate them in your neighborhood gym.
Not having every possible implement in your gym is no excuse for showing up to a strongman competition unprepared.
The deadlift is the bread and butter of the strongman competitor’s
training. There will be some sort of deadlift variation in every contest, so if
you want to be competitive in the sport, the deadlift is where to begin.
You can train the deadlift in almost any gym, since you only need a bar and
plates. Deadlift at least one day per week, building up to a heavy weight on
working sets. If your deadlift is weak, add a second day of programming that
includes a different variation (deficit, banded, paused, etc.) at a lighter weight.
Ditch the straps. Grip and forearm strength will take you a long way in this
sport, and there is no sense in missing out on extra grip work while training. If
straps are permitted in a contest, make sure to practice with them first, but do
the majority of your deadlift training strap-less.
Deadlift variations found in competition:
Conventional Deadlift: This is a standard deadlift (no sumo stance). You will
typically have three attempts to hit a max single, with 50lb jumps for men, and
20lb jumps for women.
Axle Bar: A standard barbell is 1 inch thick, while an axle is 2 inches in
diameter. If you don’t have access to an axle bar, purchase a set of fat
gripz and slap them on a standard barbell.
Deficit Deadlift: A great way to train for deficit deadlifts without a platform is
to stand on plates (3-4 inches for men, 2-3 inches for women). This will also
improve your conventional deadlift if you struggle to break the weight off of the
Hummer Tire/18in Deadlift: Instead of pulling from below the ground like in a
deficit deadlift, you are pulling the bar from a higher position. To simulate this
event, stack plates on the ground under the plates on your bar. For an 18-inch
deadlift, the distance from the ground to the bar should be 18 inches.
Car Deadlift: A trap bar is a good tool to train car deadlifts. The car deadlift
platform will typically have handles at your sides, similar to the grip of a trap
bar. Load it up heavy, and go for reps. A shrug machine makes a great car
Car Squat: I am grouping the car squat in with the deadlift because there
aren’t many squatting events in strongman. Even so, squats are an essential
lift that will increase your overall strength, so don’t neglect them. The best way
I have found to simulate a car squat is on a Smith machine. You will certainly
get some funny looks, but at least you’re not curling in the squat rack.
Axle bar deadlifts will test your grip strength as much as your pulling power. Ditch the straps in training to enhance your grip.
Being a good presser is necessary in the sport of strongman. Strict press,
push press, and single arm press are all important exercises to improve your
overhead strength. Pressing should be done on a weekly basis with
additional shoulder work to increase shoulder stability to support heavy loads.
Pressing variations found in competition:
Log Clean and Press: It is difficult to train for a log press without a log.
Barbell clean and jerks are a great assistance tool, as well as pressing
overhead with a Swiss bar, but moving a log is vastly different than a barbell.
If you can, go out of your way to find a log to train with.
Axle Bar Clean and Press: Similar to the axle deadlift, this movement can be
simulated by putting fat gripz on a barbell. Remember, the axle bar does not
spin like an Olympic weightlifting bar. In addition to the conventional clean,
another method that can be used is the continental clean.
Circus DB: The Circus dumbbell is a single-arm press where the dumbbell
can be brought to the shoulder with two hands and then pressed or jerked
with one arm. Training for this event can be done by performing single arm
dumbbell presses, and by adding fat gripz onto the dumbbells for an extra
Viking Press: The Viking press uses a bar with two handles stemming off of a
fixed point. The press extends up and forward, towards the fixture, instead of
straight up like an overhead press. Kalle Beck of Starting Strongman has a
great Viking press simulation.
Loading events in strongman competition present endless possibilities. The
best way to prepare for a loading event is to pick up a heavy object and
place it on a platform or over a bar.You will expend a lot of energy on these
events, so I recommend making one day of your training week an “event day,”
and practice multiple event movements, including loading. This will help you
gauge the maximum weight you can load if you are already fatigued from
deadlifting or squatting.
Loading variations found in competition:
Atlas Stones: These events typically involve moving stones over bars or on
to platforms of varying heights. The best way to train for atlas stones is to use
them. I highly recommend finding a gym that has some, and practicing with
them. Many CrossFit gyms are investing in stones, so they are fairly easy to
Sandbag: Sandbags are a versatile implement that can be carried, loaded
onto a platform, or loaded onto something that can then be dragged. They are
probably the most affordable and easiest of all of the equipment to make, so I
suggest buying your own and using it at home.
Many CrossFit gyms have an array of Atlas stones on hand already, so you may not need your own.
Carrying, holding, and moving events may be the simplest to train for. The
best way to prepare for moving events is to pick up a heavy object, and
move with it. If you know what implement will be used in competition, find an
object similar in size and weight, and practice carrying it. These events can
vary, but typically they are measured by time in a set distance, or max
distance in a set time. This is another item to add to your event training day,
separate from conventional lifting days.
Carrying events found in competition:
Sandbag Carry: The sandbag is typically bear-hugged or carried in front of
the body, no shouldering allowed. These events can be for time or distance.
Keg Carry: Similar to the sandbag, the keg carry event is a front-hold carry.
Kegs are fairly easy to find, so go out and buy one, fill it up with water or sand,
and carry it for 100ft runs.
Conan’s Wheel/Zercher Carry: These are front-loaded carries with the bar
resting in the crook of your elbow. Train with a heavy barbell and do max
holds. Practice breathing with the weight pushing down on you. This event
never feels good, so it’s best to build up a tolerance with being uncomfortable.
Yoke Carry: Unlike the carries mentioned above, the yoke walk is a posterior
load, with the weight resting on your back and shoulders. To simulate the
yoke carry, load a heavy barbell and place it on your back. Heavy holds are
great for core stability, but walking with the weight on your back is ideal for
Farmers/Frame Carry or Hold: The farmer’s handles and frame are gripped
from the side of the body and deadlifted to a standing position. At this point,
they will either be carried or held in place. The best way to prepare for these
events is with a trap bar or heavy kettlebells. In competition, the weight will be
very heavy, probably close to a max deadlift. These events are an excellent
test of both physical and mental strength.
Tire flips: This is the event that is difficult to simulate in the gym. If you know
that this event is going to be in your competition, find a tire and start flipping.
If you ask the average person what they know about strongman, they will
probably say “aren’t those the guys who pull trucks?” Pulling events are
always a crowd favorite, so you better step up your game. The key in this
event is to stay low and keep moving. Once the wheels start turning,
momentum will be in your favor, but it is hard to start again once you stop.
Truck pull events can either be a harnessed pull with the truck behind you, or
a seated pull facing the truck. They are typically a set distance for time. The
best way to train this event is to put a car or truck in neutral, harness yourself
to it, and pull. If that isn't an option, sleds are a great alternative. You can find
inexpensive options online if your gym does not have a sled.
Train What You Can, Expect the Unexpected
This is not an all-inclusive list of events, but part of the fun in strongman is
expecting the unexpected. Your first priority in strongman is being
strong. Without strength, you will not get very far. Focus your training around
the deadlift, overhead press, and squat. Use weighted holds and carries for
core strength, and your assistance work should include cleans, rows, curls,
abs, and grip work.
For specific training plans, check out these programs:
A basic plan for those with limited access to events from EliteFTS
A list of training resources and a free 12-week program from Starting
A 12-week training cycle by Breaking Muscle
If you absolutely cannot find a gym with strongman equipment to train once a
week, invest in a few implements and train at home. A sandbag, keg, sled and
a pair of fat gripz should be enough to get you started. Now go forth and do
The Beginner's Guide to Powerlifting:
Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know
TAGS: powerlifting federation, Geared powerlifting, weight class, preparing for meet, Jordan
Syatt, competitive powerlifter, making weight, raw powerlifting, powerlifting gear, powerlifting meet, metal
My true passion lies in powerlifting. It’s an extraordinary sport in that each competition
is a true measure of one’s progress. There isn't any lying, cheating, or blaming it on
someone else. There isn't any wondering about whether or not you've improved. You
either lift the weight or you don’t. It’s as simple as that.
I believe everyone should have the opportunity to compete. Unfortunately, many lifters
are completely misinformed, overwhelmed, and totally clueless in regards to where they
“What Federation should I join?” “How do I choose my opening attempts?” “Why do I
have to wear that silly looking one-piece?”
RELATED: Why Compete?
These are all common and valid questions that need to be answered prior to competing.
Therefore, in an attempt to simplify the process and encourage everyone to enter into a
competition, I've written this article that answers damn near every question a beginner
lifter could possibly have. I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any questions, comments,
or suggestions, feel free to leave them at the end.
First and Foremost, What is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting, often confused with Olympic lifting, is an individualized sport in which
competitors attempt to lift as much weight as possible for one repetition in the squat,
bench press, and deadlift. Each lifter is placed into a specific division and classified by
several variables including weight class, age group, and experience level. Further
subdivisions are made between what is known as “raw” and “geared” powerlifters,
indicating whether or not the individual is wearing supportive equipment during the
Competitions are generally all-day events that begin with the squat, progress to the bench
press, and conclude with the deadlift. Every lifter is allowed three attempts at each lift,
making for a total of nine competition lifts throughout the day.
Three officials serve as judges and collectively decide whether or not a lift is considered
“good” or “bad.” Each judge’s decision is represented by a panel of red and white lights
(white indicating a “good” lift and red indicating a “bad” lift) displayed after each
attempt. Two or three white lights are sufficient for a “good” lift while one or less is
At the end of the day, awards are presented to the lifters with the highest squat, bench
press, deadlift, and total within their division. A lifter's total is determined by the sum of
his/her best lifts, and the individual with the highest total is considered the all-around
strongest lifter in his division.
Powerlifting Equipment Essentials
The sheer number of products advertised as absolutely essential to boosting your total is
mind blowing to say the least. While in theory, they all sound great (and the jacked dudes
on the advertisements certainly seem to enjoy them), the unfortunate reality is that most
of them are crap. As such, to help you sort the good from the bad, the fundamentals from
the gimmicks, I’ve provided a complete list of what I consider to be the essentials of
Flat shoes: Go to any powerlifting meet and you’ll inevitably see a majority of lifters
squatting and deadlifting in Chuck Taylors (i.e. Converse All Stars). Unlike running
sneakers or other footwear with a raised heel, flat shoes such as Chuck Taylors allow the
lifter to distribute weight through the backside of the foot and effectively “spread the
floor apart.” Additionally, the bottoms of Chuck Taylors tend to be stickier than most
shoes, which help to grip the floor and prevent the lifter from slipping.
In regards to the bench press, flat shoes aren’t as advantageous, and many lifters
(especially shorter ones) prefer sneakers with a raised heel in order to get more leg drive
throughout the lift.
High socks: As those who regularly deadlift are undoubtedly aware, bloody shins are a
common occurrence. Regardless of whether or not you’re a bleeder, it would be wise to
bring long socks to the competition and wear them during the deadlift. Not only have
numerous federations already made this a requirement, but “that guy” (it’s usually me)
will inevitably show up and spurt blood all over the bar. Needless to say, the last thing
you want to do is worry about smearing his blood into your cut-up shins while trying to
break a deadlift record.
Lifting belt: There has always been a great deal of controversy in regards to the use of
“Are they safe?” “Are they effective?” “Will they impede progress?”
Personally, I’m of the opinion that if used correctly, they can drastically improve strength
and performance and decrease the risk of injury. However, when abused, lifters can
become dependent on the belt and may inadvertently neglect important components of
their training. Having said all that, most lifters can lift significantly more weight with a
belt on than they can without one. As such, if you're going to compete in powerlifting, I
strongly encourage you to invest in a nice belt, use it appropriately, and wear it while
elitefts™ pick: P2 Power Belt (pictured above)
Wrist wraps: Wrist wraps are most commonly used during the bench press, but many
lifters opt to wear them during the squat as well. Simply, wrist wraps help to stabilize the
wrist (a relatively unstable joint), allowing lifters to safely (and somewhat more
comfortably) handle heavier weight.
elitefts™ pick: EFS Normal Wrist Wrap
Singlet: Singlets make you stronger. I lied. The only things singlets do are accentuate the
true size of your crotch and provide self-induced atomic wedgies. Regardless, singlets are
required in every federation, and if you aren’t wearing a singlet, you aren’t competing.
Occasionally, singlets will be sold at the competition, but don’t count on it. You’re much
better off buying one online.
elitefts™ pick: Singlet
Finding a Competition
How do you find a competition? How do you know which federation to join? How do
you know which weight class to compete in? I’ll answer each of these questions and
PowerliftingWatch.com is a great website that details everything from upcoming meets
and lifter rankings to general powerlifting information. If you’re searching for a
competition, PowerliftingWatch.com is going to be your most valuable resource.
Choosing a federation: So how do you know which federation to compete in? If you
peruse the forums, you’ll inevitably find lengthy arguments over which federations are
supposedly the “best” or “worst.” Of course, everyone on the internet is a self-proclaimed
expert, so no one can agree on anything. Unavoidably, this just brings us right back to
where we started, and we’re still clueless as to which federation is best.
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter. Find a federation or two that host regular competitions
in your area and start competing. As you gain more experience, you’ll probably begin to
favor some federations over others, but at least initially, it’s inconsequential. I should
note that throughout my career, I’ve competed in five different federations and, in no
particular order, the SPF, IPA, and IPF are my top three.
Choosing a weight class: This should be the least of your worries. Unless you’re going
to set a new world record, I don’t see the point in cutting weight. If you could stand to
lose some fat, by all means clean up your diet and drop the extra pounds, but don’t cut
weight and dehydrate yourself just because you think you’ll be more competitive at a
The great thing about powerlifting is that each competition is, first and foremost, a
competition against yourself. It’s an accurate way to gauge how much you’ve improved
since the previous competition and to see if your training routine was actually effective.
Regardless of whether you place first or twelfth, if you don’t make progress from your
previous competition, something isn’t right. Choose a weight class in which you feel
most comfortable and focus on breaking your own personal records.
Geared or raw: What’s better—geared or raw? Is geared cheating? Is raw for pansies?
Is geared lifting the only way to succeed in powerlifting? Do raw lifters train harder? You
name it, and I’ve heard it. Every lifter and their mother has an opinion on geared versus
raw powerlifting and neither side wants to give the other the time of day.
Well, I say malarkey. As a competitive powerlifter in both raw and geared divisions, each
has pros and cons. Neither option is inherently better than the other, and what “works”
for one person might not “work” for someone else. That being said, in the early stages of
training, I think it’s important to stick to raw lifting. Spend time developing
form/technique, take advantage of newbie gains, and get used to the competition
atmosphere. Then, after two to three years of consistent training, if gear is something
you’re interested in trying, go for it. Even if you decide not to use it in competition, it can
be a great tool to incorporate within your training.
Sign up: Once you’ve chosen a federation, competition, and weight class, all you need to
do is sign up. Head over to the federation’s website, search for their upcoming
competitions, find the one you want to compete in, and send in the application form.
Initially, you will need to pay for the competition as well as a membership fee, but once
you’re a member, you won’t have to worry about renewing for a year.
Preparing For Competition—Training
Contrary to popular belief, signing up for a powerlifting competition doesn’t require you
to make drastic changes in your current training program. In fact, assuming you’re
making consistent progress while following a well designed routine, there isn't any reason
to change much, if anything at all. That being said, when you have a deadline on which
you need to be at your strongest, there are several components that need to be taken into
Establish your one-repetition maximum (1RM): If you've never competed or haven’t
recently worked up to a 1RM in the squat, bench press, and/or deadlift, it would be wise
to do so as far away from the meet as possible. By establishing a 1RM, you’ll be able to
see exactly how much progress you made throughout the training cycle as well as
determine appropriate opening attempts for each respective lift. Do not test your 1RM for
all three lifts on the exact same day. Rather, take your time and do it over the course of
one or two weeks.
Establish your opening attempts: Once you know your current 1RM, it’s time to
establish your opening attempts for the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Despite being a
relatively simple process, many lifters have trouble with this component and either open
way too light or entirely too heavy.
Below I’ve outlined the method that I use to establish my opening attempts. This was
taught to me by Louie of Westside:
First attempt: Your first attempt should be easy! Louie always told me that you
should be able to wake up at 2:00 a.m. and hit your opener. Generally speaking,
this attempt should be 87–93 percent of your 1RM. Stronger individuals should go
with the lower end of the percentage range while weaker lifters should go with the
Second attempt: Assuming you hit your opener; go for a five- to ten-pound
personal record (PR) on your second attempt. Don’t get overzealous and attempt a
30-pound record. Remember, a five-pound PR is still a PR. If you miss your first
attempt, the choice is yours. You can either take your opener again or move
directly to your second attempt. It depends on how you feel.
Third attempt: Assuming you hit your second attempt for a five- to ten-pound PR,
it’s time to go for broke and push the boundaries a bit. Be smart, listen to your
body and gauge how easy (or difficult) your previous attempt felt, but challenge
yourself and see what you can do.
Take your openers two to three weeks out from competition: As the training cycle
comes to a close, work up to your opening attempts roughly two to three weeks out from
competition. Again, don’t test all three lifts on the same day. Take your time and make it
a process over the course of one to two weeks.
One Week Out—deload: Because powerlifting competitions are almost always held on
weekends, initiate your deload on the Saturday or Sunday prior to the meet. This allows
for roughly six to seven days to relax, recover, and get in the competition mindset.
MORE: Top 10 Meet Day Tips for the Competitive Lifter
Keep in mind, a deload doesn't involve sitting on your ass the entire week leading up to
the meet. Go to the gym, foam roll, hit your mobility drills, and do some light glute ham
raises, chin-ups, push-ups, cable pull thrus, and other core work. Just keep it light and
easy. Don't do anything too intense.
Similar to training, your nutritional habits prior to competing shouldn’t drastically
change. Keep them simple, easy to follow, and in line with your current goals. Below
I’ve outlined my pre-meet nutrition guidelines:
Eat sufficient calories to lose/maintain/gain weight, depending on your individual
needs and goals.
Keep protein at approximately 1 g/lb of body weight every single day unless
you’re cutting weight, in which case increase it to 1.3–1.5 g/lb/day.
When in doubt, eat lean meats and veggies.
Eat a variety of colors, flavors, textures, and scents.
Supplement with creatine, Vitamin D, and calcium (if you don’t get enough
through your diet).
After weighing in, stick to a “normal” diet, but make it a point to rehydrate. Also,
feel free to eat a little bit more than usual, but stick to foods that you eat on a
regular basis so as to avoid an upset stomach.
What to Bring to the Meet
Meet day is stressful enough as is, and the last thing you need is to be worried about little
things that can easily be avoided. Having been through all of this myself, below I’ve
made up a brief list of items that you should consider preparing beforehand and
bringing to the meet:
Light, simple, and easily digestible food (These should be foods that you eat on a
regular basis without gastrointestinal problems.)
Coffee (Sometimes they sell it at the competition and sometimes they don’t. If you
drink coffee every day, make sure to bring it with you.)
Lean protein such as chicken, turkey, and tuna
Whole grain bread, brown rice, quinoa, and other carbohydrate sources that aren’t
overly filling or difficult to transport
Apples, bananas, and pre-cut melon are my fruits of choice
Peanut butter and jelly with natural peanut butter and sugar-free jelly on whole
All essential powerlifting equipment needed for the meet (This should be packed
in a duffle bag the night before.)
Cash, cash, cash (because you never know)
Music player, book, and/or friends to keep you company (You’ll have a while
between attempts, so it’s good to relax, hang out, and give your mind a rest.)
Finally, we’ve made it to the competition…so now what?
Check your rack height and pin position: After you’ve registered and found a place to
keep all your food and equipment, you need to go to the platform and check your rack
height for the squat. Some federations use a “walk out” rack, in which case you only need
to check your height and report it back to the appropriate meet director. However, if your
federation uses a monolift, you’ll need to check your height as well as pin position. Get
this taken care of immediately so that you don’t have to worry about it later on.
Warm up: One of the most common mistakes among new competitors is the tendency to
start warming up too late. Remember, there are only going to be a few extra squat racks,
bench presses, bars, and plates to warm up with (not to mention you aren’t the only
person competing). I suggest beginning a general warm up roughly sixty minutes prior to
the start of the competition and start taking weights for each respective lift approximately
30–45 minutes before your first attempt. As a general rule of thumb, your final warm up
should be about 90 percent of your first attempt.