Category Archives: Mass gain

Is The Hulk better than Spiderman?

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I had the opportunity to interview Stan Lee in 2003, as I was still moonlighting for “Hollywood” red carpet premieres, as the Daredevil movie was coming out.

Daredevil was in his category of characters who would become superheroes by an amazingly coincidental concourse of circumstances, nothing short of magic. Instead of trying to rationalize with science he couldn’t explain or justify, he decided to come up with mutations, as part of human evolution.

His mutant superheroes were faced with discrimination in their story lines analogous to racism, homophobia or any other societal fails for human beings.

Allow me to regress and diminish the potential seriousness about the topic to something way less important, especially when terrorist attacks occurred once again, this time on Belgian grounds, using Stan Lee’s pantheon of characters as backdrop to make my silly, yet valid point: is The Hulk better than Spiderman?



Judging from what I see, read or hear from some peers in the community, it would appear so. The balance weighs heavily in favor of the big green guy as being the only form of fitness that matters, that is relevant and all others are a joke. Yet, we could argue that Spidey’s strength, agility, flexibility, climbing and jumping abilities make him a lot more versatile, and his control over his body and actions make him more useful and functional than essentially a creature his alter ego can aim more or less.


In the training, as well as “perception of what strength means” community, Hulkmeister represents what we should aim for, that his abilities trump and fix everything that’s wrong with us. And no, it is not stated in a way that implies the pursuit of strength, rather implies a certain physicality, which is extremely useful on a daily basis for any desk job (if you didn’t detect it, that was sarcasm).


Wait, I hear a fanboy mentioning to me that post-Banner can jump really f*$%&ing high and far. I had to use The Hulk because most people know who he is. So let me amend to this other guy (if you saw the first solo Wolverine movie, you may recognize the character), who is a slightly more realistic fictional character to make a point for something I see a lot of being sold as the end-all be-all supreme attribute of health: enter the Blob.


Let’s get back to reality for a second. On one hand, being super strong and able to lift superheavy weights is pretty cool and plenty useful. On the other hand, being svelte, spry and mobile is useful, makes it easier to navigate the world around us, and is generally a greater indicator of health, especially when cardiovascular disease and other diseases tend to follow certain body types. To have the confidence to be proud of one’s strength achievements and get off your tush frequently to pick heavy stuff up and put it back down is admirable. But please, do not hide behind that strength under the guise of health.

There are still other things to consider, such as how the joints can only support a certain frame for so long, how taxing extra mass is on the body and wears out internal organs, and that carrying excess body fat is hazardous to your health. My job is not to motivate, rather educate and my intention is not to shame those who struggle with fat loss. As good coach will tell you, eat like an adult, get off your ass, exercise, rest and do not latch on to one aspect of fitness because it won’t get rid of whatever unhealthy thing you’re trying to fix by itself.

Look, everything has a purpose. A Lamborghini Aventador is beautiful, but it won’t take you far off-road. An oversized 4×4 Hummer is powerful and intimidating, but it won’t win you the Indy 500 or last long in a chase. The family crossover vehicle will carry your groceries, your camping gear, a few kids to little league practice, your office supplies and nowadays will pack enough powerful ponies under the hood without being too thirsty to hold its ground, even if it’s not as cool.

Georges Hébert discusses “strength” in his book on physical education for women:

“Physical strength, in its broadest sense, is made up of various elements [1], of which the most important ones are:

  • Resistance, endurance or breath, which allow the execution without failing of prolonged work, gymnastics or other, to sustain the same efforts and also to bear fatigue of any kind.

This element of strength, the most precious of all, depends greatly on the value and function of the internal organs. It is the natural outcome of regular and methodical training, as well as routine work of any kind; finally, it also depends on a hygienic and regular lifestyle, free of excess.

  • Pure muscular power, or simply muscle, which enables the execution with various body parts of sufficient efforts in many aspects: pull, push, squeeze, grab, lift, carry, throw, hoist, hit to defend, etc.

This element of strength depends directly on the degree of development achieved by the muscles, as well as the nervous arousal communicated by will, meaning the power of the nervous system.

  • Speed, meaning the ability to be able to do quick moves, rapid extensions, spring launches, sudden stops, etc.

This element of strength depends above all on the more or less high sensitivity of the nervous system, which transmits the command to the muscles to move into action. It also depends on muscular quality and more or less joint flexibility. Long muscles are more favorable to quick actions than short, thick, ropey muscles.

  • Agility, meaning the ability to not only to use one’s muscles and use one’s skills, but also to preserve strength to postpone the effects of fatigue.

Energetic, but clumsy individuals generally waste their strength without function or precise goal. They are often, because of that, inferior to those of medium strength who know how to better manage their efforts more adroitly.

  • Resistance to cold, as well as heat and any weather.
  • Energy and any other virile qualities: will power, courage, cold-blood, decisiveness, firmness, tenacity, the taste for action. Finally, self-control to dominate one’s fears under any circumstances, resist physical and emotional pain, etc.

An individual of medium physical value, but energetic, focused, courageous and tenacious, is always superior in life to an individual having exceptional physical abilities, but soft, lazy, scared and without mental toughness.

  • Knowledge of the process of execution of the fundamental exercises (basic educational exercises) and at the same time, a sufficient ability level in all of them.
  • Finally, sobriety, meaning temperance and moderation in eating and drinking, and frugality, meaning simplicity in choice of nutrition.”

[1] The Strength Code contains the detailed works characterizing strength and the practical tracking of those skills (another book to translate on my list).


Addition by subtraction, or how to simplify the workout for better gains of any kind.

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Regardless of what your ultimate goal is in fitness, maintaining all-around athleticism remains key for your daily activities. And frankly, there is no ultimate goal, because that means it would be the end, with nothing to look forward to beyond. Goals change. Life, give or take a few variables, on the whole, does not.

You need to eat, sleep, rest. Your health and work will change, and how you eat, sleep and rest will adjust, like your training program. Unless you are competing as an athlete or are playing a superhero on TV, you don’t really need to be this big, or that strong. Really, you don’t, and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. You do need to stay mobile, stay strong, maintain your muscles, and you do need to walk up stairs, pick stuff up, hold on to things, carry them, run to or from something, even if just walking quickly or avoiding something. Stay Spry!

There is no hack for any exercise, other than for the sake of breaking form so you can find it again. Like saying “there’s no place like home” after you’ve been around the world.

Pick a few things, do them well, do them often. Like, five. Do them for a while. Don’t count the reps, just do as many as you can in a short, predetermined duration of time (10 minutes?) and stop anytime you know or feel your form looks like crap. Start maybe by doing it as well as possible, then when the clock runs out of time, do something else, and come back to the previous exercise the next day.

Rather than add more stuff to do, to eat, to supplement with, get rid of what’s not super essential. If you did a chest exercise, a quad dominate exercise, a back exercise, a shoulder dominant exercise and a hamstring dominant exercise and have time for something else, go twist, rotate, throw, jump, climb or punch. But don’t add another chest exercise if it doesn’t make you better at something else other than pushing the buttons out on your shirt.

Or, if you ran, climbed, punch & kicked, jumped onto or off of something, and threw something, broke a nice sweat, feel a little tired, with a grin and sense of satisfaction: you’re good! keep at it.

Ignore the magazines, the pressure. Easier said than done, right? Do the stuff mentioned above, I promise you the pressure eases up as the feeling of well-being increases!

Is training to failure really bad?

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For years, I have heard that training to failure is bad, as you only “teach your body to fail”.

I also read, hear and see compelling evidence of people who do that top achieve a certain level of muscular mass gain. While it’s not a sustainable process, limited to a single set, it is still done and the argument for it, versus the one against it, is that it stimulates growth hormone.

So, I am taking a neutral stance, or Stu McGill’s answer of “it depends”, which I will base solely on semantics.

First off, what is failure? Simplified, it is the inability to continue (in this context). T-Nation (Testosterone Nation) has quite a few articles on the topic of failure, and they even define the various stages (technical being one of them, where form fails, but one can still keep going until reaching muscular failure, which, when spotted, is the inability to do a single rep, even partial).

Are we really training to fail, or are we training to push harder? Is the body really learning to fail, and what does that mean? That when that log falls on your leg in the woods, you can only lift it off your limb 7 times and the 8th time, you can’t? Maybe after the first time, you might want to watch what you’re doing and not have to repeat that mistake. I think it’s training the mind honestly.

I am a big proponent of an”Easy Strength” approach to training, but I also believe in having to go all out once in a while, otherwise, you really train yourself to fail by not pushing, by learning to walk away. An all-out “to failure” set will require more recovery, and your performance in the gym on the same lift next time will tell you if you need more or less recovery.

The other argument I want to make on that “meme-friendly” saying, and it’s something I disagree with despite respecting the source, is because the same school of anti-failure also promotes “supra-maximal”holds, meaning attempting a certain lift with a weight that one cannot lift normally and fighting, fighting, fighting even if only isometrically holding it at the sticky point for 5-10 seconds, because you are then allegedly teaching your CNS to handle the load. But, if you are not lifting the weight to full range of motion, isn’t that a fail?

How to Olympic athletes, or fighters, train? Do they train harder at times to make the event easier, or do they train easier to save their energy? Both concepts work, both are used, and it’s a matter of trial and error for the individual, or mindset.

I personally am not looking at high mass gains right now. I don’t have the bandwidth, the caloric funds, the recovery time and frankly, the setbacks associated with moving around at a weight that takes away some of my mobility, agility and actual daily needs, with the associated maintenance and added wardrobe. However, by adopting the “no failure” concept for too long, I have lost the ability to push way past the burn at times, and that, IMHO, is a dulling of that survival instinct.


What do you think?


How a complete “Natural Method” session looks like

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Home of the Natural Method

Not too long ago, I posted a blog about how Georges Hébert set up a complete session. If you go back and revisit that post with its vintage pictures, you will see that equipment was a bit different a century ago (like the mold below where you can pour concrete to make a construction brick). All goals are met, by the way, from developing strength, endurance, muscle mass, cardio, flexibility, agility (you know my FAST pillars by now), which incidentally leads to weight loss without it being the focus (all around athleticism leads to greater fitness, health and that leads to weight loss too!).


One of the reasons I wanted to give people an updated version of his training program is simply because equipment has evolved. Now, we’re not going to go show you all the selectorized equipment options or machines which isolate muscle groups which have been developed since. Instead, the focus will remain on variety of free weights, whether it’s a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, sand bell, medicine ball etc…

One additional key is the use of technique. Again, using machines requires a much lesser level of attention to proper form, as it’s almost “done for you”, and if you are going to use free weights, form is essential.

So, here is an updated equivalent post, which also serves as another sneak preview of the upcoming book with the program design of Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education through his Natural Method.


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And of course, running (sprinting, jogging, racing) for speed, endurance, power, cardiovascular health, hygienic cleansing and waste elimination benefits through sweating etc…

Quiet the noise!

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OK, a quick recap of confusion in the fitness world. What’s true, what’s not, what’s grey, what’s black, what’s white?

  1. Coffee is bad for you.
  2. Coffee is good for you.
  3. You need cardio to lose weight.
  4. You don’t need cardio to lose weight.
  5. Reduce calories to lose weight.
  6. Reducing calories won’t make you lose weight.
  7. Lifting light weights at high volume will not bulk you up.
  8. High volume & light weights add muscle mass.
  9. Lifting heavy makes you big.
  10. Lifting heavy helps you lose weight.
  11. Reduce fat intake.
  12. Fat doesn’t make you fat.
  13. Paleo works.
  14. Paleo doesn’t work.
  15. The whole wheat-free, gluten-free thing is wrong.
  16. Eat wheat-free, gluten-free.
  17. Barefoot running is bad for you.
  18. Barefoot running is the best way to run.
  19. Crossfit is bad and causes injuries.
  20. The injury rate in Crossfit is not an higher than any other fitness movement.
  21. Vegans cannot add quality muscle mass.
  22. Vegans can add quality muscle mass.
  23. Eating too much protein is bad for you.
  24. You can’t truly eat too much protein before it’s bad for you, you’ll only add muscle.
  25. P90X and Insanity are bad programs that only few people actually finish.
  26. P90X and Insanity are great programs that deliver results.

Please add to the list, as I am sure this can go on in the most unregulated, fastest growing industry that every single person thinks of every day, positively or negatively, at some point, whether it’s buttoning your pants, huffing up the stairs because the elevator’s out, looking at a billboard for Equinox, see an ad for Greek yogurt etc.

Know that for every one of these points, there is data to back it up, and a lot of theories also (be they straw men arguments or not).

Checks and balances

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I’ve been told “work like no one else so you can live like no one else”. That message is meant to have a lucrative and freeing end result. “The only risk is to not take one” is another lofty one.

I think “ignorance is bliss” is more accurate of the entrepreneurial process. If I knew what it takes to do what I have attacked a few years ago, I probably would have given up. At the same time, I am not one to go down without a fight, without the knowledge that I pushed with every ounce of my being. Quitting is not an option, but adapting and switching course is the nuance to get your head out of the sand.

“It’s not the journey, but the destination” is another cliché. True, though. You learn things about yourself and others. Your intuition usually gets verified, the lesson being “trust your gut” sooner to save time and money. There are many other lessons, but let’s stay focused on the “journey” part.

The title of this post is “checks and balances”, because in the end, everything has to even out. In business, it’s your cash flow, and when that doesn’t, the business ends. Someone screwed up somewhere, or something went awry. While you can foresee most things, you take that chance, that risk. It is the same in fitness.

Here’s how the latter applies to yours truly: I sleep very little, which affects my performance, and my hours in the car or training clients prevent a proper ingestion of nutrients, or restful digestion. Between a start-up company and its perfect storm of activity and a teething baby (who just got to sleeping through the night and night it’s back to being up after each incomplete sleep cycle), undertaking a strength focused or hypertrophy focused program design is essentially doomed to not achieve quite the results I set out for myself.

But I don’t quit, I adapt. There is progress. Repetition is a form of change (“do more reps”). Lifting only the same load but having dropped 8 pounds of bodyweight is progress (stronger pound for pound, and it appears to be fat loss, with a visual check). OK, so I won’t work as a bouncer anytime soon (I’m more like Dalton…) or scare someone into crossing the street when they see me, they’ll rather ask me for directions. My body reverts to what it knows, or has to do it with the best technique available. No one enters a fight 100%. Every fiber of my body is responding, without the benefits of the optimal conditions I encourage everyone to create. I am not a hypocrite, I am just not necessarily achieving the end goal results I set out for, but it remains a matter of perception too. A program for strength, or hypertrophy, without the matching rest requirements or nutritional intake is still a training program. As a matter of fact, it’s great for weight loss! A recent genetic testing procedure showed that my genomes are those that require little sleep. Unsure if it’s me or a statistic, but caloric reduction, moderated fatigue and frequency of training with load variations led to a stronger body pound for pound, some balance for the brain, and a lithe agile body. Win. The drills are performed within the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) or percentage of effort required with whatever “money is left in the bank” or “fuel in the tank”. Inevitably, a variable will change.

And that’s what I believe is the most important factor in being a successful trainer, or at anything: the road map. It gives you a starting point, a baseline. Follow it, things will change. Lack of change is change, usually not for the better. And “better is the enemy of good”, better is always better.

I make the time, sacrifice, compromise and sometimes have to also let go. I write checks my body can cash, and it keeps it balanced. So long as I incorporate quality movement daily, there is progress. What’s your story? I’d love to hear it 🙂


Life, body and testosterone

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I recently blogged about finding the right fit(ness), learning from and dealing with injuries, and wanted to conclude this series with a current topic that is garnering a lot of press and online exposure, as well as marketing hype.

Much has been discussed over the past couple of years about testosterone, or rather, its potential deficiency. With an increase in advertisements for erectile dysfunction drugs, the rapid growth of anti-aging clinics and treatment centers with little to no real evidence of one person’s actual “low-T” levels (compared to what? Another guy or to one’s levels 20-30 years ago?), I too fell for the marketing hype and fear of “do I have low T?” After all, I did exhibit some of the symptoms.

It started with a friend of mine a few years back who felt his testosterone levels were low. Strong, youthful-looking guy approaching fifty (but you’d never know). Then another close friend and mentor, discussing similar symptoms. And yet another just a few weeks ago. I hit the big “40” just a couple of months ago, and I noticed that:

– I was getting unusually tired.

-My strength levels were stagnating, and my muscles were not responding to stimulus. Plans I would design for clients would yield nearly 100% results for every single one of them, yet zilch for me. I even sought the help of other trainers to design me something and that would bring marginal results.

-I would get irritable, depressed.

I probably could access hormone therapy and get my hands on testosterone injections, or HGH, but I couldn’t bring myself to the hypocrisy associated with steroids and my philosophy of training and jeopardize my integrity. Nor could I justify the cost when I need to be able to provide for my family for something that would pure vanity (when I’ve been preaching the opposite for years). Those campaigns do seem attractive yet confidence-shattering. While women feel under pressure because of the Hollywood skinnies, men will see a guy like Hugh Jackman looking better and more cut sat 45 than he did at 31 (and his alleged 16-week cycle of “juice”) and experience a similar sense of dysmorphia. So, I always knew I’d never pull the trigger and start this never-ending cycle of expensive hormone treatments, and simply decided to go back to Earth and take a good look at my life.

And I got hit by a nice wave of common sense! I’d been working on a start-up for over 3 years, with the most challenging scenarios of juggling a marriage, one kid, then another, dwindling savings, increased sweat equity, manufacturing, legal and financial obstacles, a training business, 20-hour days, no vacation, pushing past limits of normalcy not allowing a body to recover. That’s not Low T, that’s being overworked! Constant fight or flight mode will keep you on edge. Fatigue will make you irritable. Lack of recovery will impair muscular growth and performance. What would a higher T count really do for me? Raise my libido (and that one’s fine, btw, thank you for asking).

So, if my immune system is fine (I rarely get sick, knock on wood), my libido is fine, what’s wrong with my testosterone then, and more importantly, my free testosterone levels? I had to know and got tested. Turns out: nothing’s wrong. Numbers are in range. Not high, not low. Better than last year. Better than last year, but my life’s crazier and my body’s feeling like it’s breaking down more and…?

Ohhh… Right!

Duh!!! Occam’s razor!

Yeah. So, I decided to make some adjustments. It was my lifestyle. The stress. The stuff I preach. I’d been doing it so much for others, I couldn’t see my own issues. Or rather, I could see them, but I was too busy to take care of them. Just like when I have a nagging pain, I’ll push a little too far, till my body says “stop”. My body’s been screaming, but my brain wasn’t listening.

I scaled down on my start-up and decided to embrace the skills of others to progress it. I’d neglected my personal training practice’s development, so I refocused on its marketing. I stopped listening to all the hype and decided to train the way I always knew was right for me (I found my right fit). In a matter of just days, my body started to respond (muscular growth and overcoming skill plateaus while not giving a F$#@ about who’s stronger or better than me). I played with my older son better, and paid more attention to my infant son more, not just being functional, but a happy participant. I even learned a thing or two form them about being in the moment, things I’d forgotten. My doctor suggested I meditate more (which I did by going surfing twice in 2 days, something I hadn’t done in over 6 months, which was my personal thing -remind me to tell you how to find out who you are to your core, it’s a simple test that is very revealing). I let go of a lot of the things that bothered me.

So, before you fall prey to the marketers of what it truly means to have low testosterone, if you’re over 40, take a look at your life. How many hours do you work, stress over it, run errands, chores, worry, overtrain etc. Aren’t those symptoms of the rat race instead? If you removed the negatives, would your body respond better? If your immune system ain’t destroying you and you’re still going strong, your sex drive is still good (interest alone, even with lack of activity, is a good sign you’re OK, you just have no game or no time). And if you happen to feel like you need to get some help, please find qualified people, not money-hungry yes-men doctors to give you what you want, rather what you need. That can be simply a new perspective. Don’t go by one number, one test. Do a few tests so you can get the whole picture. Then decide. Approach it like an investigation, not like you’re trying to prove your own point. Be smart, please. Otherwise, this is exactly the same behavior some overweight people exhibit when looking at a fat loss pill instead of choosing a healthy lifestyle.



Why Should You Train With Me?

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There’s a bunch of trainers our there. What would make you pick me over another? I am not the bee’s knees, but then maybe I am. It’s a matter of perception. I am not going to talk and gloat about my constantly upgraded, humbled, broken down, improved or reality-checked skill set, because I have coaches and mentors who would slap me 36 ways till dinner and then continue, because I know only a fraction of what they know.

I am a father, a husband and this is not a job. Training is a career, a passion, a true calling. I am not a fair-weather trainer, in-between acting gigs or waiting for some better thing to come around.

I understand struggles, life, responsibilities and everything that falls into that. I learn more so I can discard more and simplify.

I’ve simplified so much that in 6 short weeks, I maintained my weight and dropped 2% body fat without trying, just following a simple plan. So simple, I only did 2 exercises per day and kept my workouts short, very short.

In the following 6-week round, I have already packed on 3lb of muscle and over 12″ around my frame, and I’m only 3 weeks deep into it. I packed 3″ on my chest, 4″ on my shoulders, 1″ on each leg, 2″ on each arm and 1.5″ around my hips/glutes between October 10 an October 31, 2011. Body fat remained the same.

Yes, I am in “bulking up”, but not really trying. I am more in a “non-prep” prep phase for a tough 11-mile obstacle course. I just want to have the strength and stamina to do it. The bulk is a bonus.

I am watching my eating, though I am flexible and do not deprive myself. This isn’t a weight loss program. But if I did watch what I eat, the same program would make me lose fat. Because the first 6 weeks where I maintained body weight and lost fat means I added muscle, but got leaner. That’s to 1/2 the population out there, who wishes to lose weight. It can be done, easily, correctly.

My eating fueled my recovery and my ability to push through the next phase, and only half-way through, I made tremendous gains. That’s to the other 1/2 of the population, and more specifically, to all the hardgainers out there who waste hours at the gym and do not put on an ounce of muscle or walk away sore but unable to do any of the things they wish they could do. I am a hardgainer, so imagine what you can achieve if you are not one!

Remember, my being the father of a toddler and husband means I do not have the luxury to kick around the gym for a few hours, doing two workouts a day and watch myself in the mirror. I do not have the cash flow to operate a body fueled on illegal substances. I am 37 years old. I can push as hard as anyone ten years younger or more. It also means I am no rookie.

The race is my personal goal, and I want to prove that I can design a program that will both allow me to get ready and be ready anytime, even now. I know it works, I tested it.

I have the experience so you can have the education. I overcame challenges so you can do it better. I work hard because I didn’t win the genetic lottery and was busy the day God was giving away natural talents. Then he had mercy on me and gave me the gift of teaching. That also motivated me to be the guy that can and does, not just teaches.

Wanna know how I did it?

Wait another 3 weeks… I will keep you posted here and there. But I got something coming your way you won’t want to miss.