Gaining Weight for Rugby
I am an amateur Rugby Player in Australia. Just recently my coach told me, it was time to change position. I am 24 years old and at 209 pounds and standing at 6ft, he felt I would need to change if I was to make the pro scene. He believes I have the skills and mental capacity to do it— but the physique will have to undergo a little change……
He feels that I need to bulk up another 15 – 20 pounds, especially in the legs and Neck/shoulder regions. I have weight trained for years, however the last 12 months saw me do a lot of fat burning exercise and plenty of aerobic exercise. My body is far from being conditioned to a bulk weight training program.
The coach also said I would need to start now and this would leave me 5 months to concentrate on the bulk process.
Can you give me any hints? Nutrition will play a big key as well— any hints there? Especially advice on a cyclic program that would see the best results.
Five months is a reasonable time-frame for a 15-20 pound weight gain, in my opinion. There are a lot of variables that go into answering your question, but when it comes to a demanding sport like rugby, you really have to think in terms of energy balance. In other words, you have to make sure you consume enough calories to allow a weight gain to occur. The process will be easier if you avoid “unnecessary” aerobic activities, by the way. If you’re currently maintaining your bodyweight, I’d suggest increasing your daily caloric intake by 300 calories. Keep track of your weight, and wee what happens in a two week time frame. If you didn’t budge, add another 300 calories. If you gained a few pounds, continue as is. If you gain more than about 2-3 pounds, cut back by about 100 calories a day. If at any point you stop gaining bodyweight, just bump up your calories a notch again, and so on.
As far as the resistance training aspect is concerned, I’d suggest the following loading parameters as a starting point:
- Training frequency: 2-3 days per week
- Muscles trained per session: 2
- Exercises per muscle/per session: 2
- Work sets per exercise: 3-4
- Reps per set: 8-12
- Lifting Speed: Accelerative on the concentric phase, “controlled” (i.e., 2-3 seconds) on the eccentric phase
- Exercise selection: Multi-joint, large muscle group movements such as any type of squat or deadlift, any type of bench press, chins, pull-ups, rows, and so forth.
- Miscellaneous: Rather than performing “straight” sets of 8-12 reps, perform 2-stage drop sets whenever practical. Each stage should consist of 4-6 reps (for example, deadlift 315 for 6, then strip down to 275 and perform another 6 reps). In this way, you achieve a better strength adaptation than you would with straight sets.
Training with Charles
It seems like you only work with athlete-types, so my question is, is it possible for someone like me (i.e., slightly geeky but serious bodybuilder-wannabe!) to train with you? Can I also ask what this would cost me?
I appreciate all your efforts at Mesomorphosis, by the way!
I have extremely strict criteria for prospective clients: your money must be green.
OK, yes, most of my clients are athletes, but about 10-15 percent are what I would term “serious non-athletes.” To me, being an athlete is defined by what’s between your ears, so if you’ve got a good attitude about it (which is defined by the opposite of someone like Jonathan, who decided to use my column as a platform to humiliate himself in public— his question follows below).
My fees depend on a variety of factors, including the complexity of the task at hand. For someone in your situation, I charge $115.00 per session, plus travel and accommodations if I need to come to you. If you need further information, please send me a note and we’ll get it arranged.
Incorporating Power Cleans into Training Program
Hi! I’m a new reader of your column in Mesomorphosis, and I do like very much your way of thinking, your logical way of explaining those issues of training, the common sense that many coaches don’t have.
I would like to ask you a question. How can I incorporate power cleans and hanging power cleans in my muscular development routine? I have been doing power cleans for 3 months, during every back-day – thanks a lot.
Dr. Javier Saez
Cleans involve so much musculature that they can’t be neatly fit into a single muscle group category. Although this exercise does make heavy demands on the traps, I am normally more comfortable placing this exercise at the beginning of sessions devoted to leg training, for a couple of reasons.
First, the clean is primarily a full body extension, heavily involving the gastrocs, hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors, in addition to the traps. In other words, (except for the trap), these are all the same muscles you use during squatting, deadlifting, etc. So performing several brisk sets of cleans can actually serve as a warm-up for successive lifts.
Second, if you perform cleans on “back day,” you’re fatiguing your low back and legs, which may negatively affect your next leg training session. The reverse is not the case, however: training your traps on “leg day” will not significantly affect your next back training sessions.
Cleans are particularly effective performed immediately prior to deadlifts, because the movement patterns are so similar….if for example you perform 185 for 6×2 on the clean, you can start your first set of deads with maybe 225 and go up from there.
A few other thoughts while we’re on the subject:
- Cleans should normally be the first exercise of the session
- Don’t go to failure, or even anywhere near failure on cleans— ever. Cleans must be performed acceleratively.
- The most common technical flaw that “non-Olympic lifters” make during cleans is to allow the elbows to bend before the body is completely extended. Make sure your shoulders are completely shrugged before the elbows bend.
- Make sure the bar you use spins easily, and do use collars.
Supplementation for Bench Pressing
Dear Mr. Staley,
I am 16 years old and I can Bench 325 and I can Squat 500 pounds. I am going to be a Junior. I want to know what kind of supplement I should use so I can blast my bench to 400 and my squat to 600 by my senior year. So far I haven’t taken any supplements. I am thinking about getting on Ultimate Orange.
A number of thoughts crossed my mind as I read your question. If you are legitimately doing these lifts at your age, you’re quite strong. But so many people use reduced range of motion, crappy technique lifts while mummifying themselves with all manner of wraps, super suits, etc., etc., that I always doubt people’s claims (sorry!). But assuming that you’re doing these numbers legitimately, the second thing that blows me away is that the FIRST thing that crosses your mind in terms of improving your performance is what supplement to take!!!
I take this to mean that your program design and biomechanics are absolutely perfect, your diet is perfect, and the only think left to improve is your supplementation schedule.
OK, enough lecturing. Look into creatine monohydrate before Ultimate Orange. Make sure you’re using a good whey protein concentrate, a good multivitamin, and you should be in good shape.
One Rep Max Formulas
Dear Mr. Staley,
Where would I find a matrix for roughly calculating one rep max’s. I saw it in a magazine once but can’t find it now.
Actually, there are various formulas. In his book, Charles Poliquin presents several of them, so, that would be the best single source for several 1RM formulas.
More Bench Pressing…
I like to think that someday I could be a world record holder in the bench press. Right now I am 28 years old, 6’0, 230 pounds. I can bench close to 405 without a bench shirt, nearly 460 with one, supplement free. I have come to a standstill, or plateau in my workout and cannot seem to gain any more strength.
Do you have any ideas on what I should be doing? I read all the magazines and cannot seem to get anything from them. I must confess, I don’t have a very strict diet. I eat a lot of skinless chicken breasts and drink a lot of water everyday. Could this be a problem for me gaining strength. Please respond back, I am going crazy. Also, I have been pondering over the thought of adding a supplement. My co-workers use creatine and they seem to think that it helps them. What are your views on supplements, which ones work?
Your training program is much more likely to be the limiting factor in your progress, as compared to your diet, but yes, diet cannot be ignored. Although this is really more Lyle’s domain, the basic questions you need to ask (and answer) are:
- What is the optimal amount of calories that I need?
- What is the idea macronutrient ratio for me?
- What is the ideal meal frequency for me?
- Am I getting a wide variety of quality protein sources each day?
- Am I getting adequate dietary fiber each day?
- Am I well-hydrated?
After all of the above has been established, you can start thinking about supplementation. Start with creatine monohydrate (although I’m a bit cautious about supplementation, I don’t know why you would make it a point to deliberately avoid them!)
As for training, I don’t have the ability to advise you without knowing what you’re doing right now, but you can scan this site for articles I’ve written about the subject to get some idea about how I would approach your situation. If I had to take a blind crack at it though, I’d wager that you don’t have enough diversity in your training program.
I am a young guy in North Carolina, I have not really lifted a lot. I want to do a Mr, USA pageant and East Coast pageant. I also want to do night club dancing for a while.
Well I want a body and kinda quick like. I know it takes a lot of work but I want to start roids. I will get a trainer while I take them but I also need to know about my diet. I know I will have to eat more of the right food so to go along with it. My problem is I don’t know who to turn to if I need questions answered. I have a place to get them but its just a shipping company and I don’t want to get the wrong ones. Where and who could I turn too. Everyone I find just keeps telling me, no I am not going to tell you anything about them they are bad. Could you help me in any way?
Thank you for your time.
Either this is a joke, or you are profoundly immature. Best of luck— you’re going to need it!
How Frequently Should One Change Training Program?
I am hoping you could share your insight on the following. I currently change the exercises I perform once I stop progressing (i.e. the weights or reps no longer increase— about every five or six workouts or so). I have always done this as I believe it to be indicative of the fact that my body has adapted to this program and will no longer benefit from it.
But I have been thinking about this and came up with the following hypothesis. I noticed that my weights do seem to increase rather dramatically when I start a new exercise. For example, I began doing close-grip bench presses at 195 lbs for 5 reps and, by increasing the weight by five pounds per workout, have most recently performed 215 for 5. Let’s suppose that I work out today and am only able to repeat my previous performance. Normally I would switch my workout next time. But I am thinking that these rapid increases in strength are highly unlikely to be from increases in muscular mass but rather from neural adaptations.
Perhaps my nervous system was limiting my performance previously and the fact that I can’t progress at my previous rate is indicative that my muscles are now being fully taxed (both the nervous and muscular systems are at the same level, 215 lbs. for 5 reps). Perhaps this would not be the time to switch and repeat the cycle but rather to persevere with this exercise as I now have an efficient enough nervous system to apply sufficient tension to the target muscle to cause an anabolic effect.
I would greatly appreciate your opinion regarding this whenever you might have the time.
A: Excellent question, absolutely excellent.
You are correct that short term (daily or weekly) strength gains are primarily from neural processes (increased rate coding, intramuscular coordination, etc.) — there simply wouldn’t be enough time to develop enough muscle mass to account for rapid short term strength gains.
I remember chatting with my friend Jim Wright (you can find his articles in Flex magazine) about how frequently one should change their program, and he was of the opinion that is was indeed beneficial to struggle past the point of habituation— in other words, you might do the same program for 6-8 weeks, even though you find it nearly impossible to make progress past 3-4 weeks. In other words, don’t change your program the moment it starts getting hard to make progress!
Also remember that program changes can run the gamut from slight to complete. So for example, I personally like to do the same exercises for 6-8 weeks, but I will change the set/rep format halfway through. So if I’m performing weighted pull-ups, I may start with 3-4 sets of 4-5 reps on week 1, then continually attempt to increase reps every week for 3-4 weeks— I might be able to get 4 sets of 8 reps after 4 weeks. Then, on week 5, I’ll increase the load (i.e., add more weight to my belt), drop down to sets of 4-5 reps, and climb my way back up. After 8 weeks of this, you’ll be quite shot, and a change of exercise will be in order.
Becoming a Strength Coach
I have brooded over many careers in my life, and I have decided to give strength coaching a go. I really don’t think that I’ll be successful at any other career because this is the only thing that I have a passion for. I also want a decent lifestyle. In order to get that lifestyle, I’ll need to shoot for the better jobs out there, but this means I’ll have to get a degree. I already am close to finishing my SSC certification from ISSA, but it won’t land me a high paying job in the professional or collegiate arena. My question is what kind of degree do I have to get to be a respectable strength trainer worthy of high paying jobs? Your reply will be most helpful.
Thank You and God Bless,
There is no linear correlation between having a degree and landing a high-paying job. I actually find that many of my academically-oriented peers seem to have an unconscious disdain for making money…some kind of an intellectual purity thing I guess.
Here’s how I look at it: you’ll make money if you’re effective, and if you can market yourself. If getting a degree helps you to accomplish either, then do it.
Above all, I do feel very strongly that you must do what you have a passion for. In my own case, I can honestly say that if I won the lottery, I would continue to do exactly what I’m already doing. If you embark upon a career simply for financial rewards, you’re doomed (this doesn’t sound like you— I’m just exploring the topic).
If you have an insatiable appetite for the subject matter (for example, in my own case, my life consists of training, studying, eating, and sleeping, and nothing else), you need to just jump in, rather than testing the water with you toe. Lastly, check out an excellent book called. I should have written it myself!