Jason Maxwell has created a new program for gaining muscle mass just in time for the holidays. I was very impressed with his DUP Method program, (a system for increasing your one-rep max) so I was looking forward to checking it out.
Maxwell’s bulking program is called Decembulk, and I’ve had the opportunity to look over it. I’ll start this review by sharing what you get if you decide to invest in this program:
Decembulk Program Components:
The Getting Started Guide: This short document simply tells you how to use the program–read the manual, decide how many days you want to train, and follow the nutrition and training protocols accordingly. Pretty simple, which is a good thing (I don’t like overly complicated programs).
Printable Training Logs: Decembulk is set up with some flexibility in terms of training frequency. You can train 3, 4, or 5 days a week according to your schedule and preferences. You simply print out the training logs accordingly.
Training Calendar: This will guide you through the program by telling you which workout you are supposed to do on a given day. If the calendar says “Workout A1,” for example, you just find that workout on your training log. The calendar has guides for the 3, 4, and 5 day a week program.
Bulking Calculator: This spreadsheet will guide you through the nutrition aspect of the program by showing you how many calories and macronutrients you should be taking in. Be sure to pay attention to it: people tend to overestimate or underestimate the amount of food/calories they are actually consuming.
You’ll also get three bonuses when you order Decembulk: 6-Minute Finishers, for arms, shoulders, and chest. You can add these “mini routines” to the end of your training sessions in order to give additional attention to lagging body parts (or muscles you just want to give extra attention to).
Decembulk Program Review:
Muscle size and strength are connected, but you are likely to see the best results when you train with one specific goal in mind. Jason Maxwell has designed Decembulk for those who want to spend a few weeks focusing on hypertrophy/mass. His workouts are designed to create the perfect combination of tension, muscle damage (on the microscopic level), and metabolic stress in order to help you achieve new gains. This, combined with the right nutrition, should go a long way in helping you put on a few pounds of quality mass.
Let me be clear on something here: this program is not a fat loss system (that should be obvious, but I just wanted to make it 100% clear). If you are wanting to lose fat there are several other programs out there (Maxwell’s DUP Method can be adjusted for fat loss). Decembulk is not for you if your goal is anything other than putting on mass.
I think this program would be good for the following:
*Beginner/intermediate trainees who have been training for a while and want to focus on getting bigger. Decembulk would be great for guys who have learned a few of the basics and want to take their mass-building to the next level.
*Athletes who want to move up in weight class or just get bigger for their chosen sport. The winter season is when a lot of guys want to focus this goal, and I think Maxwell’s program would be good for this.
*Returning trainees who want to regain some size they have lost during a layoff. Those who have been out of training for a while and want to start back by putting on some mass should see good results.
*Ectomorphs (skinny guys) who want a system specifically designed for gaining weight.
If you match one of these descriptions then I think Decembulk would be a good investment. It is a reasonably priced program and I think you’d find it to be a good investment of your hard-earned money.
The only serious weightlifting injury I’ve ever had happened back in 1996. I had been experimenting with heavy weighted dips (doing this exercise with over 100 lb. attached to a belt). It was great for my ego, but I think it is largely to blame for wearing out all the cartilage in my AC joint (where your clavicle meets the shoulder). My doctors told me it was a pretty common injury among those who lift weights. My only option (other than live in pain) was to surgically remove the bone spur that had developed.
This meant I’d have to lay off the weight training for six weeks or so. I still remember returning to the gym for the first time after the layoff. I was wearing one of my favorite sleeveless workout shirts. Looking in the mirror was depressing–my arms looked like pipe cleaners to me. Needless to say, I probably didn’t look nearly as bad as I thought. Regardless, my arms had clearly lost some of their size.
Fortunately my size and strength returned very quickly. I actually broke some personal strength records within the next year or two.
I’m using this little story to illustrate a concept that is a bodybuilder or strength athlete’s best friend: muscle memory.
Technically this term has little to do with strength and size. Muscle memory refers to things your body “remembers” to do after multiple repetitions. My fingers, for example, are effortlessly typing this article without my brain thinking about each individual keystroke.
But many in the iron game have used this term to refer to what I experienced after my injury: gains in strength and size usually come back much more quickly than it originally took to earn them. We’ve kind of adopted “muscle memory” as a term to explain this phenomenon.
I have since learned how this works. It has to do with satellite cells and their role in hypertrophy (muscle growth). Satellite cells are located on the outside of muscle fibers and normally lay dormant. But when a muscle is stressed/damaged through resistance training, they go to work. These cells multiply and go to the site of the damage (keep in mind we are talking about damage at the microscopic level). Here’s where it gets really interesting: satellite cells “donate” their nuclei to the muscle cells, which its one of the factors that cause it to increase in size (this is one of the main concepts in the MI40X program). Trained muscle cells have more nuclei than untrained muscles, and this change remains even after one stops training.
Formerly trained muscles, therefore, are already primed to grow back to their previous levels of size and strength–the additional nuclei are already there in the muscle cells, “waiting” to do their thing.
Muscle memory is real. This is good to know if you need to take some time of due to injury, illness, or any other reason.
It’s time for another body transformation interview! I’ve had the privilege of talking with Lyss Remaly. This incredible woman went from weight over 350 lb. to winning 1st place in a bodybuilding competition. She’s also the first person I’ve interviewed who used bariatric surgery to help her reach her goals.
Kevin: Lyss I’d first like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Please start things off by just telling us a little about yourself (where you live, family, occupation, etc.).
Lyss: I currently live in Scottsdale, Arizona. I am originally from Chicago, Illinois and made the move out here a few weeks ago for a new work adventure. I am the Senior Catering and Event Manager for Hilton Worldwide so I get to plan weddings and big parties! It’s a blast!
My amazing family is in Chicago. I’ve lived with them my whole life. Now that I’m on my own I find I’m naked a lot more than I used to be around the house!
Kevin: Based on the pictures I’ve seen you once weighed 350 lbs. Did you always struggle with your weight (since childhood) or was it a problem that developed later in your life?
Lyss: I was ALWAYS fat. When you’re a newborn and look like you have rubber bands on your arms and legs it’s cute. But when you’re 18 and look like that…not so cute!
Kevin: What was the turning point for you? What made you decide to begin your body transformation journey?
Lyss: I had what I call my “click moment” when I was 21 (December 11th, 2010). I was getting on an airplane from Las Vegas where I went to college to New York (I was auditioning for an off-broadway play). I literally could not fit into the airplane seat. The airline made me buy the seat next to mine just so I could fit. To make matters even WORSE, I had to be given an extender for the seat belt because it didn’t fit.
I was a crying mess and decided then and there that I HAD to change. I had a whole life in front of me that I was sabotaging. I couldn’t even put on my own bra or walk up a flight of stairs. Everything just clicked in my mind.
Kevin: You began with the help of bariatric surgery. I believe you are the first person I’ve interviewed that took this route (which makes me even more thankful to talk with you). What was that experience like? What advice would you give to those who are considering surgical intervention for their obesity?
Lyss: This can be a sensitive topic for some because some people are ignorant and just don’t understand the process. Bariatric surgery is exactly what you said…help. It’s not a quick fix, a magic pill or even the be-all end-all to successful weight loss.
Yes, the surgery gave me a violent shove in the right direction. But 5 months after surgery I had only lost 20 pounds. I realized that while I was eating far less, I was still eating the same crap foods that got me into that condition to begin with.
That was when I had my second “click moment” and realized that the food wasn’t the problem. It was just a symptom of the problem and it was up to me to really figure out what the problem was. THAT was when the real weight loss journey and transformation began because I had to work out my food demons. I had to come to grips with the the “why’s” of what I was doing and fix the bad habits that I had formed over 21 years of life.
Kevin: Not everyone who does weight loss surgery gets into intense, bodybuilding style training. What made you decide to do it?
Lyss: I have always been strong. My dad was built like a brick outhouse and passed those genetics to me and my little brother (thanks daddy-o). I HATE cardio: I always say that I’ll only run if I’m being chased, and even then I would try to negotiate!
I walked into a gym after I had my second “click moment” and literally went from machine to machine, figuring out how it worked, what muscles it worked, and seeing how much weight I could move. I FELL IN LOVE! I talked to all the “meat-heads” for advice, read everything I could get my hands on, and bought myself the Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. My life was totally changed!
When I got to my goal weight of 150 pounds in 2012 I looked at myself and said… “Okay…that was a fun challenge…what’s next? I’m going to compete in bodybuilding.” There it was. I put it in my mind and I didn’t stop.
Kevin: Did you experience any plateaus in your fat loss? How did you overcome them?
Lyss: Of course. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast when training for anything I think. I had to keep pushing, keep consistent, and find other ways to track my progress. Some weeks my strength or endurance improved or my clothes fit better even though I didn’t see the numbers on the scale go down. It was helpful to celebrate improvements in other aspects of fitness.
Kevin: What does your typical week like in terms of training and diet?
Lyss: I train 6 days a week and take one day of active rest. I work out using a body part split and on the active rest day I might swim or go for a long walk or hit the stair climber. I do some form of cardio every day since my job is pretty sedentary. I keep my diet very low carb and high protein. I follow a paleo type lifestyle where I have cut out all artificial sweeteners. I make my own condiments and spices and really focus on good quality fuel.
Kevin: What was it like for you to compete in a show?
Lyss: It was literally the GREATEST moment of my life. I loved every single minute of the process–from day ONE of prep to the moment I walked off that stage with a 1st place trophy in my hands.
Kevin: What’s next for you?
Lyss: I will be competing again in 2016 in August at the WBFF worlds in their transformation division. I may do a show before then here in Arizona since a year seems like a LIFETIME away! I am also focusing on finishing my book that I am writing about my entire journey. I’ve been working on it for two years and I’m DETERMINED to finish it by fall.
Kevin: Is there anything I haven’t covered that you’d like to say/share?
Lyss: I just want to take a second to thank you for the opportunity to share my story. It means more to me than you know to have the chance to share my journey with others. I promise…regular people are capable of doing incredible things…you just have to trust yourself, your body and be your own motivation.
Kevin: Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview!
Most guys (especially younger trainees) start going to the gym with one thing in mind: building muscle as quickly as possible. I can relate to this goal–allow me to tell you a little personal history before I go any further:
I’ve been fascinated with strength and muscle since I was a kid. I remember seeing comic book advertisements from Charles Atlas during my elementary school years. I never ordered any of his programs, but the thought of having a lean, powerful physique captivated my imagination.
One of my first (embarrassing) attempts at lifting weights happened when I was about twelve years old. My cousin had begun to mess around with a weight set his parents bough him and invited me to join in. I thought I was strong, but I was unable to bench press whatever amount he put on the barbell (I think it was about 120 lb.). I asked my parents to buy a weight set for me for Christmas (or maybe my birthday) and they agreed. Soon I had my own set of concrete-filled plastic weights and would train sporadically.
My next vivid memory is from my high school years: training with “real” (Olympic-style) barbells and plates for the first time while trying out for the football team. I could barely move the day after that first workout with the team. I wasn’t very strong (being a “late bloomer” physically didn’t help), but that slowly began to change as I kept training. I never became a great football player, but I did develop a passion for building muscle and strength.
Arnold Schwarzenegger became my idol in my college years. I carefully studied both his publications on training and his pictures. He’s still my favorite bodybuilder, but I later realized he wasn’t a realistic role model for someone like me (more on that later).
I kept working out through the 90’s, experimenting with different training techniques (some worked, some didn’t). I spent way too much money on supplements, most of which did absolutely nothing (I tried almost everything the supplement industry produced: prohormones, etc.).
I’ve never competed in bodybuilding–it’s just not one of my goals or priorities in life. But I did end up building a pretty good physique, and regularly train to this day (I’m not in my 40’s).
This article is kind of a collection of things I wish I knew back when I first started training years ago. I didn’t know much about building mass and strength when I first started lifting–I learned through bodybuilding magazines, misguided coaches and other various sources. There was a lot of trial and error involved, and I’m convinced I could have made better gains in less time if I knew then what I know now. I’m hoping these tips will help new trainees avoid the mistakes I made.
Here are a few things you need to avoid if you are serious about getting bigger and stronger:
Mistake #1: Spending too much money/time/energy on bodybuilding supplements.
As mentioned, I spent way too much of my hard-earned cash on bodybuilding supplements in my younger days. The vast majority of the stuff I bought didn’t do anything to help me build my physique. That money could have gone into savings or other better uses.
Here’s what you have to understand about the bodybuilding supplement industry: it exists to make money, not muscle. It is a largely unregulated business, and you’ll get ripped off quickly if your believe everything they advertise.
I’m not opposed to supplements, but you need to stick to the basics and don’t be in a hurry to try the latest, greatest products. Wait until multiple studies are done on new formulas before deciding to try or buy. More importantly, don’t expect supplements to make that much difference–your diet and training are going will be much, much more important than any pill or powder you use.
Mistake #2: Copying the Routines of Professional Bodybuilders
Some guys make the mistake of trying to train like professional bodybuilders, using routines they see in magazines. This is not a good idea for several reasons:
1. Genetics: Professional athletes of any kind are going to be genetically gifted, so what works for them may not work for you.
2. Anabolic Steroids: You can’t expect to get the same results as a guy who is taking drugs. His recovery ability will be enhanced beyond what is naturally possible, so following his routine is not advisable.
3. Fictitious Routines: You can’t even be sure that a routine printed in a magazine is the one your favorite competitor actually uses–it’s quite possible that a writer/editor just made it up.
Mistake #3 Poor Nutrition
Can you make gains on a crappy diet? Yes–I built some size and strength with a completely haphazard eating plan during my college years. But if you want to build quality mass in record time you’ll need to put just as much planning into your nutrition as your workouts. Many trainees will spend hours in the gym without putting a fraction of that time/effort into their eating plan. Remember: we are talking about building your body as quickly as humanly possible–that won’t happen with poor nutrition.
How To Build Muscle Fast: The Basics
Now let’s get into the basic things you should be doing if size and strength is your goal. I won’t be sharing every detail, but this overview should get you going in the right direction.
1. Build strength in the basic lifts like deadlift, bench press, squat, etc. These old-school, multi-joint movements will give you a lot of “bang for your buck,” providing a powerful training stimulus to the large muscles (back, thighs, etc.). Get stronger in these movements and you’ll be on your way to building a more massive, powerful physique. It’s fine to spend some time on isolation movements (like curls), but focus most of your time and energy on the big lifts.
2. Stick to the 5-12 rep range. You’ll find that the vast majority of your growth comes from this range of repetitions because it gives you a good balance of volume and intensity. You can experiment with higher/lower reps once you get more advanced, but stay somewhere within this range if you are just starting out. Here’s another tip: you’ll find that somewhere between 30-60 total repetitions per muscle in each workout session should be enough training stimulus for growth.
3. Train each muscle (or muscle group) twice a week. A muscle will typically recover within about 72 hours of being trained. After that you should be able to work it out again. You can get by with less frequent training, but you are missing opportunities for growth (52 opportunities per year).
1. Eat .75 grams to 1 gram of protein per lb. of body weight. This is plenty for building muscle, regardless of what you might read about the insane amounts of protein some bodybuilders supposedly eat. It’s fine if some of this protein comes from supplements (like whey powder), but most of it should come from “real” food: meat, eggs, etc.
2. Eat a calorie surplus–consume more calories than you are using. You’ll probably need to eat at least 17 calories per lb. of body weight in order put on weight. Some may need to eat way more than that. Here’s another tip: you may need to keep an eating journal for a few days to track what you are eating (you may be eating far fewer calories than you think you are).
3. Add extra meals (or shakes) if needed. You may find it difficult to get adequate calories/protein from only three meals a day. Eat an additional meal or drink a protein shake if needed, but don’t get caught up in thinking there is some magical number of meals a day for building muscle. Just eat as many times as you need to properly digest your protein/calorie requirements.
Those are the basics on how to build muscle fast. If you want more information I’d recommend you invest in a quality program to guide you step-by-step. This is one of the best investments you can make for getting started the right way. Vince Delmonte’s No-Nonsense Muscle Building would be a really good investment for beginners or skinny guys who want to get big.
I’ve had a chance to look over Renegade Strong, the latest program from Jason Ferruggia. This six-week program is designed to help you get “big, strong, and jacked.” I’ll tell you a little more about the program design.
Renegade Strength Program Setup
This book begins with Ferruggia explaining the overall training philosophy. He proceeds to a warm-up program you can use to get loosened up before each workout.
The main program is a four-day split, meaning it is designed for those who want to train 4 days a week. You alternate between upper body and lower body days, but variation has been built into the weekly routine. Some workouts emphasize heavier weights and lower reps, while others are designed to do use less weight and go with more volume/repetition.
As mentioned, this is a six-week program. The exercises don’t require any special equipment and I think you could do Renegade Strong at just about any commercial gym. Another nice feature is a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section where he answers common questions a trainee may have about the program (alternate exercises, etc.).
Jason Ferruggia has developed a well-deserved reputation for putting together great workout programs. Renegade Strong is no exception. Let me share a few ideas on who I think this program would be well suited for:
*Intermediate or advanced trainees who want to ad some variety to their workouts.
*Guys who want to ad some conditioning elements to their routines (this program features some strongman type training that would suit this purpose).
*Older trainees (over 35) or who want physically demanding workout that are designed with long-term joint health in mind.
*Guys who are a little beat up and want to train around mild injuries (in other words, guys that are healthy enough to train but maybe have some achy joints, etc).
*Guys who are bored with training only the “big 3” (squat, deadlift, and bench press) and want to mix things up a bit.
I’ve had a chance to look over the Muscle Matrix Solution by Ryan Hughes. I’ll start of this review with a little information about the author.
Hughes first started training when he was a teenager. He was 6’1″ tall and weighed only 135 lb. But he had a passion for training and was able to compete in his first bodybuilding competition at age 19. He would eventually become one of the first IFBB Men’s Physique Pros, an International Fitness Cover Model, and a well-known trainer and fitness professional. He is considered one of America’s top personal trainers and has appeared on nationally syndicated television shows.
Muscle Matrix Solution Program Components (Summary)
Once you make your purchase you will get an email with login information. As you can see (by looking at the screenshot) you begin with a welcome page. The navigation tabs on the top of the page will take you through the rest of the program:
This section includes an overview of the program in video form. Hughes walks you through what the program includes and how to set it up specifically for your needs. Some of the topics he discusses are optimizing hormones (like testosterone), training, diet, and supplementation. He also gets into some motivational issues that will hopefully help inspire you to get started and stick with it.
There are also two downloadable pdf files in this section: 1. Welcome file/e-book, and 2. Cover Model Secrets, which explains some of the final steps bodybuilders/models take to get ready for a photo shoot or contest.
Ryan Hughes explains the workouts in this section (which he calls Matrix Training). His program combines three different styles of training, all of which are proven to be effective individually. The idea is that these training techniques will work together synergistically when combined. The workouts are set up in three different tracks: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Progression is built into the workouts so will improve in the amount of weight you use, the amount of reps you can do, and the amount of time you rest in between sets (you will be able to get by with less rest time as you progress through the program). He goes on to explain the specific set and rep range you’ll be doing.
There’s a downloadable file where you can see the actual workout plan (the specific exercises, set/reps, etc.).
Keep this in mind: the program is set up for you to do brief, intense workouts (about 45 minutes). You won’t be spending all day in the gym, but you will have to train hard–these workouts will not be easy.
Hughes’ nutrition plan is based on three key principles:
1. Flexibility: This doesn’t mean you can eat pizza and ice cream every day. It does mean that you can eat foods like this every once in a while in moderation. In other words, you can follow this lifestyle without having to plan your entire life around a 24/7 strict diet.
2. Meal Timing and Nutrient Combination: You will be guided in eating certain types of foods according to the time of day and/or your training. You will try to eat most of your carbohydrates, for example, in the evening after you train. This advise may sound different that what you’ve heard before, but it does work (based on my personal experience–I eat most of my carbs either after I train or at dinner).
3. Macronutrients: Ryan explains the role of protein, carbohydrates and fats and how you can manipulate your intake of these to build muscle and burn fat.
There is downloadable file you can use to read about these principles.
This section also includes a nutrition calculator. You can use this to customize your eating plan for your specific needs.
The video and the pdf file breaks down Hughes’ recommended supplement protocol. This is one area where I have some disagreements with the author. I personally do not believe any supplement can significantly increase testosterone and nothing he wrote has changed my mind. Instead of getting into details I’d rather just give my standard advice: stick with basic supplements like whey protein powder, (micronized) creatine monohydrate, a multivitamin, and fish oil. Use these basic supplements with reputable brands and you’ll do fine (and you’ll keep more of your hard-earned money).
The Exercise Library:
Drag Curl Demonstration Video
This is another nice feature of the Muscle Matrix Solution. I always appreciate video demonstrations of exercises and these are well done.
This final video/pdf wraps up the program. Hughes talks about defining your goal(s) that were on your mind when you ordered and implemented this program. He recaps all the program components (training, nutrition, etc.) and encourages you to embrace what you have learned as a lifestyle. He also mentions an insider’s coaching club you can join if you choose to.
This section has the Abdominal Accelerator program available for download. This is a plan for those who want to spend 30 days focusing on maximizing their fat loss. I think this would work really well with or without the supplements mentioned.
I think the Muscle Matrix Solution program is put together very well and will get results if you follow both the training and the nutrition plans. The set and reps Hughes recommends makes sense to me because it is a good mix of strength and hypertrophy (growth) rep ranges. I found the material to be well organized and easy to navigate.
Who would this program benefit? A few types of people come to mind:
*New trainees who want a step-by-step system to guide them on their journey of building muscle and/or losing fat.
*Intermediate or advanced trainees who have reached plateaus in their training and are ready to try some new workout techniques.
*Guys who want to look better–those who want to build a lean, muscular physique and be more self-confident.
I’ve had the opportunity to look over Andrew Raposo’s Fighter Abs program. Let me start this review by explaining what you get if you order this system. You’ll be directed to a download page where you’ll see the following:
Fighter Abs Program Components
The Coaching Video Workouts:
This page has videos divided into three levels of difficulty: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. There are 19 videos total with a pretty good variety of exercises. These videos are well done and you’ll be abele to see exactly how to do the prescribed exercises.
Fighter Abs Exercise Manual:
This pdf file is a complete illustrated guide to the exercise program. It includes both pictures and step-by-step descriptions of the movements you’ll be doing (stance, body positioning etc.). You could easily print this out if you want, but I had an easy time reading it in digital form.
12 Week Blueprint:
The previous components I mentioned show you how to do the exercises. The blueprint shows you how to put it all together–it is a complete “road map” of how to set up your training schedule. It includes tips for getting started, how to incorporate the Fighter Abs routine in an existing program, choosing the phase you should start with, etc.
Get Mobility Like a Fighter Videos: These warm up exercises are designed to help with flexibility/mobility. Doing these movements will keep your joints healthy and should help with tight muscles or even poor posture.
Mobility Exercise Manual: This is the illustrated guide to the mobility exercises. Like the main exercise manual, you’ll see descriptions/instructions on how to properly execute the movements.
Mindset Solution: This document is all about the mental aspects of training. You’ll learn how to condition your mind for training and you’ll find some of these principles carry over to other aspects of life.
4 Week Mobility Blueprint: Raposo explains how to incorporate this mobility work into your routine over the course of a month. I’m guessing you would notice a marked improvement in just a few weeks, especially if you’ve never worked on your mobility (or haven’t done it in a long time).
7-Day Rapid Fat Loss Accelerator Guide: Needless to say, no one will see your abdominal muscles if they are covered in fat. This guide shows you how to kick-start your fat loss if that is one of your goals. You’ll be manipulating your calories and macronutrients (carbohydrates, etc.) for maximum results. There is a limit to how much you can lose in a week, but this will teach you the limits of what can be done in a short period of time and maybe even motivate you to keep working towards getting leaner.
Supplement Guide: As the name implies, this is a the author’s recommended supplements. He recommends some specific brands (as most fitness professionals do), but I’d suggest you just stick to the basics and find less expensive brands.
Not everyone who trains does so with the idea of looking like a bodybuilder. Some find the lean, athletic, powerful physiques of MMA fighters to be more appealing. Fighter Abs is the kind of training that is more in line with that goal.
I should mention something here: this program is not some “short cut” to having six-pack abs–there is no such thing, and anyone who tells you otherwise just isn’t being honest. Having visible abs comes from having low body fat along with a few other factors (genetics, etc.). I’ve mentioned MMA fighters, and they are the perfect examples of this–some of them have washboard abs, others don’t–even when they are in top condition.
I think this program is put together well and would be beneficial for the following:
*People who want to add some variety in their training. You could incorporate these exercises into an existing program to help with core/abdominal strength, conditioning, and mobility.
*Trainees who want an alternative to the typical bodybuilding routine. This may mean you want a break from lifting weights or you just want to explore another type of training altogether.
*Martial artists who want a program that will help them with their basic strength/conditioning. I think this would be especially good for beginners who need to develop the basic strength.
*People who are interested in studying self-defense. This isn’t a self-defense program per se, but learning some of these movements would be useful for that purpose.
*Trainees who want to ad some variety to their abdominal training. It is easy to get bored with crunches, etc. This program may help you stay motivated to train abs and core muscles.
Every once in a while I get asked about the form of supplements known as prohormones. I’ll share what I believe to be an informed opinion (along with some personal stories for your amusement), but keep in mind I’m not a doctor or pharmacist.
The History of Prohormones
Some of you may know that I spent wasted a lot of money on supplements in the 90’s. That era was in many ways the the “wild west” of supplement industry.
Prohormones came on the scene the mid-90’s, not long after anabolic steroids had been reclassified as schedule 3 controlled substances (since big biceps are apparently as dangerous as heroine).1 They were still legal because they were supposed to be precursors to anabolic hormones–converting to testosterone only after passing through the liver.
This was also around the time of the internet boom, so all kinds of stuff was being sold online. I remember GHB, the “date rape drug,” being marketed since it induced a deep sleep which would theoretically help with growth hormone production.
Androstenedione was the first prohormone to be heavily marketed (and given the nickname “andro”). This one was made famous when a sports reporter “accidentally” spotted a bottle in Mark MgGwire’s locker–some believe he put it there to draw attention away from allegations of steroid use (which he denied for years).
I was a naive 20-something who had been training for over a decade. I was eager to find an edge to make me bigger and stronger (ironic, since I considered myself a “natural” trainee). I tried several prohormone formulas: androstendione, 4-AD, 1-AD, etc. I even tried some unusual administration routes, like spraying them on my skin (which was supposedly superior to taking them orally), and even spraying them up my nose (which supposedly helped with focus and aggression, since that’s a more direct route to the brain). Did I mention what a naive consumer I was? I can’t help but laugh thinking back to some of the moronic things I tried.
I used prohormones on and off from the mid to late 90’s, but I can’t say they made any difference whatsoever. If I had it all to do over I would have simply enjoyed the gains that come from being in the peak years of my natural testosterone production (and saved some of my hard-earned cash). My best lifts of that decade came from simply adjusting my training methods—not from supplements of any kind.
At some point I discovered just how unpredictable prohormones were. Androstenedione, for example, was shown to raise the level of certain female hormones–not what I had in mind!2 I had never experienced any feminizing side effects, but the illusion of inducing a legal, side effect free testosterone boost was completely shattered. I never bothered with prohormones again–part of the hard lesson I had learned about trusting the supplement industry. I’m extremely grateful for reaching this conclusion because the worst was yet to come.
The hype regarding prohormones lived on in the 2000’s even after some were banned by the Steroid Control Act of 2004. “New” products came up that were not covered under the current law. I would see brands/names mentioned on bodybuilding forums, complete with testimonies of muscle/strength gains. But I was done–I wasn’t about to potentially tamper with my natural testosterone production based on endorsements in forums.
Prohormones and Toxicity
I have since learned that most of the prohormones were not really new at all–they were originally developed in the 60’s by chemists that were trying to create new steroid formulas. These compounds were abandoned because they were found to be ineffective and/or extremely toxic to the liver. Unscrupulous companies had essentially repackaged toxic waste of the 60’s as muscle builders. Apparently some the formulas that were resurrected in the 2000’s were more toxic than what was sold/used in the 90’s–a few unfortunate users required medical intervention due to liver toxicity.3 The FDA eventually banned these new/old drugs as well.
So here we are, about 20 years after prohormones were first introduced. I don’t know if any “new” versions are out there and I could care less. I’m content to lift, live and just optimize my testosterone levels naturally.
I’ve had an opportunity to check out a new program called The DUP Method (from Jason Maxwell and Mike Samuels). I’ll start this review by explaining what you get if you decide to invest in this program:
DUP Method Program Components:
#1 The DUP Main Manual
This document serves as a starting point, explaining the overall training philosophy and science behind the strategies you’ll be using. It will give you an overview of the program as well as some different options for training frequency (anything from 2-5 days). Once you’ve read this you’ll have a basic understanding of why this method should make you stronger.
#2 The DUP Method Nutrition Guide
Needless to say, you can’t get big and strong without a good eating plan. This document will show you how to set up your diet/nutrition in order to maximize the benefits of your training. You’ll be guided in calculating your daily caloric intake as well as macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates). Be sure to look over this carefully–many trainees fail to reach their goals because they don’t put much thought or planning into their diet.
#3 The Optimal DUP Workout Log
According to the author, the ideal setup for this program is to train five days per week. That may sound like overtraining, but you have to remember that the volume (number of sets and reps) is adjusted so you’ll be able to adequately recover. Anyway, this workout log is convenient because you can print it out or put it on your smartphone. Either way you could bring it to the gym with you.
#4-Day Per Week Workout Log
As the name implies, this workout is designed for those who can only train four times per week.
#5 The “Busy Man’s” Workout Log
This one is for those who can only train three times a week.
#6 DUP For Beat Up Lifters Workout Log
This is a program variation for lifters who are a little older and/or training around old injuries. Some trainees, for example, may have back issues or joint problems that require them to make some adjustments in their exercise selection, etc. This would be helpful for men (or women) in that situation who want to keep getting stronger while avoiding re-injuring themselves.
#7 DUP For Hypertrophy Workout Log
As the title implies, this program is set up for those who are primarily concerned with building muscle (vs. those who are only interested in strength/powerlifting).
#8 DUP For Fat Loss
Last but not least, these workouts are set up for those who are interested in maximizing fat loss while also benefiting from the strength aspects of the training.
You’ll also get some nice bonus material if you decide to order. BONUS #1: Bench Press Tutorial Video BONUS #2: Squat Tutorial Video BONUS #3: Deadlift Tutorial Video BONUS #4: Bigger Bench Checklist Bonus #5: Customization Guide Bonus #6: DUP Arms Specialization
Bonus Material (Deadlift Tutorial)
I think you’ll find the video tutorials especially helpful. You can watch them online or download them onto your hard drive (I’d recommend downloading them).
Additional Products (Upsells):
Here are additional program packages you can add on to the basic package. You do not have to purchase these, but you can if you are interested: The Accelerator Package: This includes a manual for diet, training, supplementation and complete workouts for those who want to do an all-out, 6-day per week training schedule.
The Done-for-You Package:This includes spreadsheets for all five of the workouts in the basic package. You just put your one rep max in and it calculates it for you. A nutrition spreadsheet is also included.
The Specialization Package: This includes specialization guides for bench press, deadlift and squat. These programs would be useful for those who really want to focus on improving one of these lifts.
Have you ever noticed how many guys go to the gym and lift the exact same weight for the same number of reps week in and week out? The reason is pretty simple: they are training like newbies.
Beginner trainees will usually get a little bit stronger every week, regardless of training methodology. But linear progression (adding a little weight to the bar each workout) will only get you so far. You will eventually reach a “sticking point”–a lesson I learned the hard way back in the 90’s.
This is where periodization comes in–training in a way that works with your muscular and neurological system. Daily Undulating Periodizationis a unique variation of this strategy that can be very effective.
Keep this in mind: this way of training is not like the typical bodybuilding type split you see in the magazines (and gyms). But I think you’ll find it to be a refreshing change of pace–one that is backed by science. One study, for example, found that the DUP method was superior to linear methods (like 5×5) for building strength in those with significant training experience.1
I believe the DUP Methodcan teach you how to start making progress again if you find yourself stuck in a rut of no noticeable gains.
*Intermediate to advance trainees who want to break through plateaus in their overall strength. This includes increasing your max in the bench press, squat, and deadlift.
*Athletes who want to increase their strength in order to be more competitive in sports.
*Guys (or girls) who want be strong in addition to looking strong.
*Trainees who are willing to commit to a different style of programming than what they may be used to (especially those who have done a traditional bodybuilding split).