Category Archives: Training Q&A

Q&A: Are Side Bends Worthless?

7209-train4Q: Do you recommend side bends? I can’t recall seeing a photo of a professional bodybuilder performing them.

A: Just because you don’t see a pro doing side bends doesn’t mean that they’re not a valuable exercise. You won’t see any photographs of the pros doing the L-fly or the finger extension, and you probably won’t see them using a back extension machine or a four-way neck machine. Even so, all five of those exercises have great merit for all bodybuilders.

None of those moves will build substantial muscle mass, which is probably the reason that they’ll never become very popular. What they do do is strengthen neglected and largely hidden muscles, which will help keep you more resistant to injury so that you can progress better in the exercises that will build substantial mass.

The side bend works the obliques—the two layers of muscles (the external and internal obliques) at each side of the waist. You may have seen photographs of famous old-time bodybuilders and strongmen such as Eugen Sandow and Siegmund Klein. They had substantial development of their obliques, but they didn’t get it from side bends. They got it from heavy, overhead, one-arm lifts that involved substantial lateral movement.

Discard any thought that you can overdevelop your obliques. The chance is miniscule. If you get to the point where you’re using a dumbbell heavier than 125 pounds for side bends (for a man), and your external oblique is as developed as you want it to be, stop progressing in poundage. Instead, just maintain that level of development. Still, few bodybuilders will get to that level.

The price you would pay for not doing side bends is to miss out on an exercise that has the potential to strengthen greatly important muscles in your core structure.

The side bend doesn’t work just the obliques. It also heavily hits the abs and the quadratus lumborum, the deep, hidden muscle on either side of the lower spine that helps form the rear of the abdominal wall. The side bend also provides direct work for some of the small muscles around and between the bones of the spine.

What’s more, some development of the external obliques adds a terrific sweep to the sides of the waist—provided that the bodyfat is low enough for them to be visible.

Here’s how to perform standing dumbbell side bends:

Take a dumbbell in your right hand and space your feet a hip width apart or a little wider. Rest your left hand on your left hip. Bend to your right side as far as feels comfortable, and pause for a second. As you bend to your right, push your hips a little to your left. As you return to the vertical position, move your torso first, then your hips. Once you’re vertical, continue the motion as far as you comfortably can to the other side to get a full range of motion, and then return to the vertical position. That’s one rep. Pause for a second, and perform the next rep. Do all your reps to the right side without interruption. To exercise the other side, reverse the procedure.

After an intensive set of side bends, take two or three minutes’ rest before working your other side, so that your performance on the latter doesn’t suffer. Alternate the side you work first from workout to workout.

Face forward throughout each set. There should be lateral movement only. Don’t lean forward, don’t lean back, and don’t overstretch.

Do the reps smoothly—about three seconds down and three seconds up, plus a pause for a second at the bottom and another at the top. Inhale on the descent, and exhale on the ascent, or just breathe freely.

There’s also the pulley side bend. Use a low-pulley cable. Stand sideways to the apparatus, with the handle in the hand that’s nearest to the apparatus. Stand far enough away that the plates can’t come down all the way to rest at the bottom position. Line up the pulley with your ankle and the direction of the cable with the center of the side of your hip, to keep the resistance in the same vertical plane as your body. Then follow the directions for dumbbell side bends.

Adapt carefully to the side bend if you’ve not done it before—or if you’ve not done it for a while. For two weeks do it twice weekly without added resistance, two sets of high reps for each side. Start with your hands akimbo, and then progress to crossing your arms at your chest and then to placing your hands on top of your head. If your flexibility increases, you may be able to increase the depth a little during the first few weeks. Progress gradually.

In your third week of side bends start to use a dumbbell. Add poundage gradually over time, using small increments.

You can also do dumbbell side bend while seated at the end of a bench, with one foot on the floor on each side. With a wide enough foot placement to maintain balance, the seated side bend can work well.

Caution—the side bend is an asymmetrical exercise. Provided you have a healthy spine and you perform it with correct form, the side bend will strengthen your body’s core muscles and increase their robustness and resistance to injury. If, however, you have back problems, you want to avoid this exercise. Get treatment to correct the problems, and then start on the side bend. In the meantime, the rotary torso machine may be a safe alternative.

—Stuart McRobert


Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new BRAWN series, Book 1: How to Build Up to 50 Pounds of Muscle the Natural Way, available from Home Gym Warehouse, (800) 447-0008 or

Russian Secrets for Power

7209-prime6Q: I’d like to get my bench press, squat and deadlift poundages up. I understand that the Russians have produced a lot of world champions in IPF international powerlifting competitions. What are the unique aspects of their training?

A: The International Powerlifting Federation was founded in 1972, and the first official IFP World Championships was held the following year. Due to strict rules and drug testing, the champions in IPF meets tend to be more highly regarded than those in many of the other organizations.

Russia has been a dominant force in IPF competitions, both the men’s and women’s teams. In fact, last year at the World Championships the Russian men won the team title and the Russian women placed second. It’s my understanding that the training programs of the Russian powerlifters are modeled after Olympic lifting programs, with lots of sets, high frequency and very few assistance exercises.

One accomplished Russian powerlifting coach who promotes such training is Boris Ivanovich Sheiko, who has recommended up to 40 sets of bench presses per week. Because of the high volume, the load is generally low, focusing on weights that are about 70 to 80 percent of the one-repetition maximum.

Another accomplished powerlifting coach who is a proponent of high-frequency training is Dietmar Wolf of Norway. It’s my opinion that he has done the best job of implementing cutting-edge Olympic-lifting methodology in the sport of powerlifting.

Q: How do you increase tendon strength? I heard that high reps of 20 to 30 with light weights is the way to go.

A: I prefer negative training for increasing tendon strength. Eccentric, or negative, training aides collagen production. Tendons have a slow metabolic rate with limited blood supply, making them very slow to heal. Eccentric movements stimulate blood flow, promote tendon healing and activate mechanoreceptors in the cells of the tendon, increasing its strength.

Negatives will also lengthen the muscle-tendon unit, increasing range of motion. For example, eccentric training is commonly used to rehabilitate, strengthen and lengthen the Achilles tendon. If you are new to it, begin by manipulating tempo with a four-second eccentric phase and a one-second concentric phase. You can vary that tempo by using a longer eccentric phase and an explosive concentric motion.

Q: Should I do aerobics to lower my blood pressure and improve my heart health? I hate stair climbers and treadmills, but I’m concerned that weight training is not enough for my ticker.

A: Consider that weight training dramatically improves heart function. It has repeatedly been shown to decrease blood pressure. A recent scientific review found that across eight trials, systolic blood pressure decreased by an average of 6.2 mmHg. That is a clinically significant result because it is more than double the benefit of the typical blood-pressure-lowering medications.

Weight training also enhances arterial function and decreases inflammation. One review showed that older women who weight trained had lower C-reactive protein, an oxidative stress marker that causes an inflammatory status. The combined effect of lower systolic blood pressure, less inflammation and better blood flow can reduce cardiovascular disease risk by more than 14 percent.

Q: Is in-season weight training a good idea? My son plays high school and club baseball, and the coach is concerned that if he lifts weights too hard before important games, he will be too sore to perform well.

A: One popular expression in strength coaching is, “All things being equal, the stronger athlete will always win.” That said, why train your body to be weak? Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when sport coaches exert too much influence on their athletes’ strength and conditioning programs.

Many sport coaches are so worried that their athletes will get too sore from training that they tell the strength coaches to work them light several days before a competition—or worse, tell them not to train at all. The result is that by the end of the season, when the most important competitions occur, the athletes will be weakest. Remember, it’s the volume of training, not the intensity, that is most likely to cause overtraining. During an athlete’s season, prepare for major competitions by reducing the volume first—but still go heavy!

Q: What is the best protein source for a postworkout shake?

A: I like whey protein. First, whey is high-quality protein that provides a greater array of amino acids in greater concentrations than other protein sources, so your body has more to work with. It triggers muscle building to a greater degree than either casein or soy.

Second, as convenient as protein powders are, if the goal is fat loss, use only whey protein after training and eat high-protein foods (meat!) for all meals. Energy expenditure after a whole-food meal is up to 50 percent higher than after a processed meal. Whole foods also favorably moderate insulin and blood sugar.

Third, whey supports immune function because it raises levels of the most important antioxidant, glutathione. Surveys show that a stronger immune system is associated with greater muscle gains.

Finally, whey excels in practical tests. Note the results of one such study that compared having trainees supplement with one of these three protein choices: three grams per kilogram of bodyweight a day of whey protein, the same dose of soy protein, or a smaller dose of 1.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight a day of whey.


• The large-dose whey group gained 2.5 kilograms of muscle.

• The soy group gained 1.7 kilograms of muscle.

• The small-dose whey group gained 0.3 kilogram of muscle.


The one drawback to whey protein is that a lot of people can’t tolerate it, or they become intolerant over time, meaning they need to rotate their amino acid source.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad on the opposite page.   IM


Order in the Workout

Q: Does exercise sequence matter, or can I approach my training session in any order?

A: Exercise order is of critical importance. You only have a finite amount of chemical energy to expend on any activity. The more activity you perform, the more fuel you expend, and the less you have available for further activity. Strength, or anaerobic, is virtually always more important than “cardio,” or aerobic (granted that anaerobic vs. aerobic is in large part a false dichotomy, it’s a useful example here). So do your strength work first. Do the heaviest exercise first, and make it a compound barbell lift—i.e., squats, deadlifts, clean and jerks, snatches, bench presses and shoulder presses. The remaining work should be accessory to that main lift with the focus of shoring up weaknesses in the kinetic chain of motion.

Cardio is merely the training of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to deliver oxygen to the muscles. You can easily train that capacity without running, swimming, cycling and so forth. Those are mechanics, not dimensions of fitness. If you want cardio, a better way to go about it is simply to lift weights faster, taking less rest. Monostructural mechanics, like running, are sport and thus goal specific. They are not general and necessary for all trainees.

Q: I’m hearing a lot of contradictory concepts regarding calorie intake for weight loss: “Eat less, lose weight” vs. “Eat more, lose weight.” Which is actually correct?

A: It depends on the individual and more than anything is a function of your hormonal regulation (or, more likely, misregulation) and intestinal permeability. Fat storage and fat burning are functions regulated by the endocrine system, which is profoundly affected by the content of your diet. Quantity is really not as important as ingredient quality. Caloric restriction is an unsustainable behavior, largely neurotic, and is otherwise just miserable torture. So conceptualizing your dietary travails in terms of caloric load, whether more or less, is a fundamental error.

No matter how much you eat, you must first prioritize ingredient quality. The point is to foster a fundamental lifestyle change so you can later relax somewhat, depending on circumstances—not a short-term crash diet. The word diet has taken on additional meaning in our colloquial use of it, moving far from the original Greek word it is derived from, diaita, which means “lifestyle.” Clearly, that does not jibe with our neurotic stereotype of temporary crash-diet behavior. The bottom line is that you must eat clean first, before you can even consider the effect of food on weight loss. Then check out the answer to the following question to learn more about losing weight.

Q: To lose bodyfat, should I just cut out all carbs, eat them all at night, or eat them all in the morning?

A: First and foremost, get your carbs from high-quality sources. A Twinkie is not a high-quality source, nor for that matter is just about any grain source (possibly excepting rice and corn, but the distinction is more nuanced). Prioritize vegetables (especially tubers) and fruit for carbohydrate sources.

Second, adjust your carbohydrate load relative to your physical activity. If you’re a couch potato, you shouldn’t be wolfing down two sweet potatoes a day with three cups of rice. Also consider how lean or metabolically deranged you are. The leaner and healthier you are, the more carbs you can buffer with activities such as weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, general strength training, P90X or whatever other kind of suffering you choose. Put simply, you must “earn your carbs.” Did you just finish a brutal game of football, eat a lot of carbs. Did you PR your back squat? Carbs. Did your workout consist of twiddling your  thumbs on the remote? You get nothing!

7208-MHPQ: I am a 40-something-year-old woman. I have always been told that if I lift weights, I’ll get big and bulky. Is that true?

A: Let’s do a quick test: Do you have testicles? If the answer is no, then you won’t get too big and muscular from lifting weights. You simply do not have the hormonal machinery to power the immense muscle growth that you imagine. Unless you plan on dosing anabolic steroids, don’t worry about “getting bulky.”

Personally, I’m tired of this question. It just illustrates the pervasive misinformation and narcissistic self-hatred that pervades our culture. All humans need to endure progressively challenging external loading of the musculoskeletal system. It is a stimuli that the body has evolved to require in order to elicit and maintain a variety of basic functions.

If bulking up is your concern, then I would tell you to try an experiment. Try training like a powerlifter or bodybuilder for six months. If you like the results, stick with it. If you don’t like the results, go back to what you were doing before—Tracy Anderson method, Zumba, Shake Weight, chronic slow, long-distance cardio or whatever. Wolf’s Law will cause you to atrophy and go back to the same physically weak state you started at. So there’s no need to worry about growing too big or staying that way—should you ever succeed in the first place.

Q: What’s more important for maximizing my squat, the top or the bottom half of the movement? 

A: The force curve describes the change in force production as you move through a range of motion. The leverages change and thus your capacity for generating force changes. For example, at the bottom of the squat (when the bend in the hip is below the knee) your capacity for force production is much lower than at the top, when you are standing or near standing. If you want to improve any mechanic of the movement, you must focus primarily on attacking the weak links in the kinetic chain. That refers both to the muscles in use and the mechanical position.

Most squats are missed near the bottom—just above parallel on the concentric portion, the ascent. Though it’s a highly individualized situation, the following are some good tools for overcoming that plateau: Paused squats (stopping at the bottom momentarily), box squats and Anderson squats (starting from the bottom squat position in a rack and pushing upward). You can also try changing the squat type by altering the bar position (high, low, front, Zercher or using the Manta Ray), the bar type (straight, Buffalo, cambered, safety) and/or the foot position (narrow or wide). The most important factor is moving through a full range of motion and then using your accessory work to attack the weak links in the kinetic chain, wherever they may be.

Editor’s note: Ben White won his first IFBB professional bodybuilding contest, the Tampa Pro, in 2010. He is also a champion powerlifter and frequently competes in the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder contest at the Olympia. His best competition bench press is 711 pounds. He is an MPH athlete,  IM


Q: What is the Rader chest pull?

7202-phosacidQ: What is the Rader chest pull?

A: In the last installment of this column, one of the questions I covered dealt with the breathing pullover as a possible way to enlarge the chest—especially for young bodybuilders. The Rader chest pull is an alternative and was strongly recommended by Peary Rader, founder of Iron Man, particularly as part of a 20-rep-squat routine.

To perform this static exercise, stand at about arm’s length from a vertical bar, with your feet hip-width apart. Alternatively, use a sturdy, stable object that can be grasped at about head height. If you use an upright of a power rack or a vertical bar, keep your hands together. If you use another object, keep your hands as close together as possible.

While keeping your arms straight, take a deep breath and simultaneously pull down and in with your arms. Don’t contract your abdominal muscles. Keep them relaxed. If you tense your abs, this will flatten your chest and defeat the purpose of the exercise.

Done correctly, the Rader chest pull will raise your chest and produce a pull and slight discomfort in your sternum. If you don’t feel that, you’re not doing it properly. You may get a better effect if you bend your arms slightly, because that will enable you to pull harder. The harder you pull, the better the effect on your rib cage, so long as you pull in the right way.

Once you get to grips with it, you’ll feel a pronounced stretch in your rib cage. It may take a while to get the exercise right. You may have to fine-tune the height of your hands, the spacing between your hands, the distance between your feet and the base of the object you hold and the angle of pull. Persist until you get it right.

Hold your breath for as long as is comfortable—you should be able to feel the pull and slight discomfort in your sternum the entire time—but don’t hold your breath until you’re almost ready to burst, because you need to be able to perform up to 20 reps for a single set. How long you can comfortably hold your breath will depend on the state of your breathing prior to performing the chest pull and your general conditioning. Aim for around four to six seconds per pull.

Some of the cautions concerning the breathing pullover also apply to the Rader chest pull. Each is usually performed immediately after an exercise that gets you heavily winded—often high-rep squats or deadlifts. Take it easy to begin with. The forced and exaggerated breathing may make you feel dizzy unless you work into it over a period of a few weeks. Your chest may get very sore, too, if you don’t work into the Rader chest pull gradually.


Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new BRAWN series, Book 1: How to Build Up to 50 Pounds of Muscle the Natural Way, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or


Q: Did Bertil Fox influence your early training?

7207-train5Q: Did Bertil Fox influence your early training?

A: Yes. He trained in a harder, briefer, heavier way than did most elite bodybuilders of his era. That appealed to me.

While the basic format of “harder, briefer and heavier” is what the typical bodybuilder should apply, precisely how it’s applied makes the difference between success and failure.

In his prime, the 1970s and ’80s, Fox was one of the most genetically gifted bodybuilders ever—and on steroids. He responded extremely well to brutal workouts that would be excessive for most bodybuilders. He also used certain exercises and loose techniques that, while they were productive for him, aren’t productive for typical trainees.

Bodybuilders of Fox’s stature and today’s pros have bodies that are much more robust than those of typical bodybuilders, and they also have much greater recuperative abilities. I overdid exercise intensity, as well as volume and frequency of training, trying to mimic Bertil’s brutal workouts.

Had I applied the basic “harder, briefer, heavier” format at a level appropriate for a steroid-free trainee who’s of normal genetic potential and average recuperative abilities—as in the instruction I promote today—I’d have made far greater progress and without getting injured. I urge you to learn that lesson and spare yourself the frustration and disappointment that I went through as a young bodybuilder.

—Stuart McRobert


Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new BRAWN series, Book 1: How to Build Up to 50 Pounds of Muscle the Natural Way, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or www


Simple Muscle-building Fat-loss Workout

7207-smart1Q: Can you give me a simple muscle-building and fat-loss workout I can do at home twice a week? I’ve been lifting for three years, know the basics and have no problems with squats. Also, I’m good at chinups. I have a barbell, a bench and a power rack.

A: You asked for it! This workout consists of only one giant set and looks easy on paper (it’s not!), but it is especially effective at helping you drop fat fast while adding muscle. Even so, the exercises are extremely challenging, alternating between upper-body and lower-body movements.


A1) Barbell squats, 3/2/1/0 tempo, 5 x 8-10

Rest 60 seconds

A2) Chins, semisupinated grip, 3/0/1/2 tempo, 5 x 8-10

Rest 60 seconds

A3) Bent-knee deadlifts, 4/1/1/0 tempo, 5 x 8-10

Rest 60 seconds

A4) Flat-bench presses, 3/2/1/0 tempo, 5 x 8-10

Rest 120 seconds


Perform this workout twice a week, allowing at least two days’ rest between workouts—for example, perform it on Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Saturday. After six training sessions, change workouts. Again, this is a challenging routine. Note that your goal is to perform 50 reps of semisupinated-grip chinups; that is, chinups with your palms facing each other.

Now here’s a two-for-one offer. If your primary goal is fat loss and your secondary goal is building muscle, simply reduce the rest intervals for the first three exercises to 30 seconds. If you want to get lean—or should I say, “get lean fast”—you need to generate physiological stress to produce as much lactic acid and growth hormone as possible. Lactic acid buildup is associated with a subsequent release of growth hormone, which can significantly increase the body’s ability to burn fat for energy while turning off its fat-storage mechanisms.


Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit   IM


Q: What’s the best type of chinup to perform?

7207-smart2Q: What’s the best type of chinup to perform? I see many variations used and was wondering if I should vary my chinups every few weeks?

A: Start with the basics. The three basic grips are supinated (palms facing your body), semisupinated (palms facing each other) and pronated (palms facing away from your body). When you use a pronated grip, it’s called a pullup. The pronated grip puts the least amount of stress on your wrists, elbows and shoulders. If you alternate these three chinup variations and progressively add resistance using a chin/dip belt as you get stronger, you will experience great results.

The grip that will let you handle the most weight is a semisupinated, medium grip—with your hands about 22 to 24 inches apart. That places your elbow flexors in their most effective line of pull, making it the chinup variety on which you will most likely be able to use additional resistance.

When you’re ready to take your training to the next level, the exercise I consider the king of upper-back exercises is the sternum chinup. It was popularized by bodybuilding pioneer Vince Gironda, who earned the nickname “Trainer to the Stars” by training many Hollywood celebrities, such as Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington. Gironda also trained many elite bodybuilders, such as Larry Scott, who won the first Mr. Olympia in 1965 and repeated as champion the following year before retiring.

The sternum chinup is unique in that it combines many different movements. The start of the exercise resembles a classical chinup, the midrange a pullover, and the end a row. This chinup requires you to hold your torso in a layback posture throughout the entire exercise. As you pull yourself to the bar, lean your head back as far from the bar as possible, and arch your spine. Toward the end point of the movement your hips and legs should be at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Keep pulling until your collarbones pass the bar, your lower sternum makes contact with the bar, and your head is parallel to the floor. Use either a supinated grip or a pronated grip, and vary it from narrow to shoulder width—the latter requires more strength.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad on page TK.   IM


Q: Should I do drops on the last round of TORQ?

7206-cmass2Q: I am already growing with your TORQ [tension-overload repetition quantity]. You’ve talked about Mr. America Doug Brignole and his version. He does higher  reps, more sets and a series of drop sets on the last set. You don’t mention that with your version [30-20-15 reps]. Should I do drops on the last round of TORQ?

A: Doug has been at this bodybuilding thing for decades—and even he is still learning and experimenting. There’s a complete overview of his method, his workout routine and variations in The Power-Density Mass Workout 2.0, but let me hit the highlights to help answer your question.

Doug currently does only one exercise per target muscle. Yes, one. If you want to do more exercises, as you would with three-way POF, use TORQ, which is only three sets—30, 20 and 15 reps, all done with the same weight, 45 seconds’ rest between sets and each set to failure or very close.

Doug, as I mentioned, performs only one exercise for each target muscle. For example, his only chest exercise is decline dumbbell presses. He does 50 reps on the first set, going all the way down to 10 on his last—50, 40, 30, 20, 10. And he does drops sets after those last 10 reps. His final set may look like this: 10(10)(7)(5).

Drops can be difficult to do in a crowded gym. You have to be able to grab lighter dumbbells for the drops—or reduce the poundage on a bar. If it’s a weight stack, as on pulldowns or leg extensions, that’s not a problem; however, other exercises can be difficult to drop on.

In those cases I prefer rest/pause. So TORQ is 30 reps to failure; rest 45 seconds, then do 20 reps to failure; rest 45 seconds, then do 15 reps to failure. On that last set, after you hit failure, count to 10, then rep out again. That should give you another six or so. Rest 10 seconds one last time, then rep out, hitting failure around rep four. So your last set is 15(6)(4).

Another option is to emphasize the important semistretch point, the point on the exercise’s stroke at which you’re able to activate the most fibers.

For example, when you hit failure at rep 15 on the last set, lower the weight to the semistretch point, such as near the bottom of a decline press, and continue repping in the bottom eight-inch range only. Those familiar with my mass-training suggestions will recognize the end-of-set partials as X Reps. Very productive.

Incidentally, I’ve dubbed Doug’s method “Super TORQ.” I like using it every so often, doing only one exercise per bodypart—but it’s tough. Doing 50 reps causes significant burn and pain—if you pick the right weight. It feels very light at first, but toward the end it takes a lot of focus.

The reason TORQ and Super TORQ work is that they both include sets in the high end of hypertrophic tension time, 60 to 90 seconds. The length of a set for optimal size stimulation is 40 to 90 seconds. With the high-end hyperpertrophy methods you reach 60 to 90 seconds of time under tension, something most bodybuilders never get.

While the TORQ methods, along with 4X, are perfect for older bodybuilders who want to continue building muscle without stressing their joints with heavy weights, younger bodybuilders should use them too. Despite popular belief, high reps and longer tension times do great things for both muscle growth and fat burning.

Keep in mind that sets lasting around 20 seconds are optimal for strength development, not size. Time your sets. If yours are like most bodybuilders’, they aren’t lasting long enough for optimal size stimulation—and that may be the biggest reason mass gains are so slow for most. TORQ up your workouts for guaranteed growth.

Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on POF as well as many other mass-training methods and workout programs visit  and


Uni-angular Tri-sets for Bigger Arms

7206-smart1Q: I’d like to try a training cycle to bring up my arms, which are lagging behind my other bodyparts. I’ve been training for two years. Can you give me some ideas?

A: Try a five-day cycle in which your arm workout falls on the first or second day. The program would look like this:

Day 1: arms; day 2: legs; day 3: rest; day 4: chest and back; day 5: rest

The next cycle would change to this:

Day 1: legs; day 2: arms; day 3: rest; day 4: chest and back; day 5: rest

Repeat that sequence twice (so you will have trained arms six times), and then change programs. To continue the workout for a longer period would result in a case of diminishing returns, and you’d make little or no progress.

A great training system you could start with is uni-angular tri-sets, which I learned from the late Don Ross, a bodybuilder and bodybuilding writer. Many bodybuilders who had the best arms in the 1970s, such as Ehrling Wahlgren and Larry Scott, used this method. Most of you know Larry Scott as a two-time Mr. Olympia winner. Wahlgren placed fifth in the NABBA Mr. Universe in 1971 and ’73; he had tremendous arms and was also extremely strong, having done 780 pounds in the reverse deadlift.

Tri-sets are effective because they extend the stimulus to a wider pool of motor units along with increasing the total time under tension—TUT—for the associated muscle fibers. In a tri-set you perform three different exercises performed in the same plane for the same muscle group in a superset format, with no rest between exercises. For uni-angular tri-sets you simply add a 10-second rest between exercises, which makes a world of difference in the results.

Hypertrophy depends largely on how much weight you can lift for how long—load x TUT. If you move immediately from one exercise to another, the reduced loads produce a suboptimal training effect. Adding a 10-second rest after the first and second exercises in a tri-set makes it possible to use significantly greater loads than if you took no rest, which in turn increases muscle tension. Here’s an example of a uni-angular tri-set workout for the arms:


A1) Lying dumbbell extensions, 3/0/1/0 tempo, 3 x 6-8

Rest 10 seconds

A2) Lying EZ-curl-bar extensions, 2/0/1/0 tempo, 3 x 6-8

Rest 10 seconds

A3) Lying EZ-curl-bar extensions to chin, 2/0/1/0 tempo, 3 x 12-15

Rest 120 seconds

B1) Standing, narrow-reverse-grip EZ-curl-bar curls, 3/2/1/0 tempo, 3 x 5-7

Rest 10 seconds

B2) Standing, middle-reverse-grip EZ-curl-bar curls, 3/0/2/0 tempo, 3 x 3-5,

Rest 10 seconds

B3) Midline hammer curls, 2/0/2/0 tempo, 3 x 5-7

Rest 120 seconds


Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit   IM


Job Stress and Muscle Gain

7201-train5Q: I am stressed at work, and it affects my training—I just can’t seem to recover from workouts well, and I am always coming down with something. I was training five days a week and cut it down to four, which helped. If I go to three days, how should I arrange my workouts?

A: The simplest way is to alternate an upper-body workout with a lower-body workout and perform them on nonconsecutive days; you will train each area three times in two weeks, as in this sequence: Monday, upper body; Wednesday, lower body; Friday, upper body; Monday, lower body; Wednesday, upper body; Friday, lower body.

When your job stress eases up, increase your workout days to four per week and perform each workout twice a week, as follows: Monday, upper body; Tuesday, lower body; Wednesday, off; Thursday, upper body; Friday, lower body.


Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit   IM