The Only Supplements I Take

Lately,  I’ve been asked a lot about what supplements I take or what I recommend.  Now, some people spend WAY too much money on supplements.  A lot of the supplements they buy are unnecessary and some are flat out dangerous.  I won’t go into those; but if they are not on my list, then they’re possibly on the worthless list.  I’m a big fan of herbal supplements, though I don’t take any, because they are natural.  The reason I don’t take any, however, is because I feel they should be taken on a “by case” basis and that there aren’t any that fit in with my current goals.  So, without further adieu, here is what I take:

Whey Protein

Whey protein is quit possibly the most important supplement, next to a good multivitamin, that I take.  Most of my protein intake comes from protein shakes.  It would be virtually impossible for me to take in over 200 grams of protein through solid food, everyday.  I’m a working man and have a life; plus I do not have a personal chef to prepare my meals, everyday.  Granted, I do try to eat as much protein from solid foods as I can.  I try to find a good protein blend that contains both whey protein isolate and concentrate.  I also try to find a whey protein with a little casein protein included, since it burns slower than whey.  I currently use a whey blend that does not include casein, so I add milk in my evening shake to get it in.  Whey proteins almost always include all of the supposed “necessary” BCAAs, too.  That’ll cut out the need for buying BCAAs separately, though I don’t believe BCAAs do much for you.  Whey is a very crucial supplement for anyone trying to put on muscle, however.  Forget the beef, soy, and whatever other kinds of protein supplements that are out there.  If you disagree, please do your research.

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Multi-Vitamin

I shouldn’t need to go into much detail on why I take this one.  None of us get all the vitamins we need, through food, everyday.  It’s simply not possible; so we must supplement it.  I take Centrum Men’s formula.  On days I forget to take a multi-vitamin, I definitely notice it by feeling like poop.

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Creatine Monohydrate

I just started using this one, again, after years of not taking it and have noticed a huge difference in my overall performance in the gym.  I take 5 grams of the powdered form with my morning protein shake.  You want to take this right before you workout on the days you exercise.  On the days you don’t exercise, take it in the morning with any beverage or meal.  I recommend this supplement for any kind of athlete, not just weightlifters.  You will notice a positive difference in your performance within weeks.  Forget all that loading talk, too.  You’ll do nothing except upset your stomach.  Simply start by taking 5 grams a day and just continue with that amount.

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Omega 3 Fish Oils

This is a key supplement I recommend for everyone, even non-athletes, because of it’s many benefits.  It’s absolutely fantastic for your heart, joints, brain, vision, and fertility.  Just do a quick search on Omega 3 Fish Oils and see for yourself.  Note: All of this is great, unless your allergic to fish!  Then, I’m pretty sure this supplement may kill you.

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Pre-Workout

This is the supplement that I use sparingly and with caution.  There are TONS of very dangerous pre-workout supplements on the market, so please read some reviews before deciding to purchase one.  I take a very mild one that my gym sells called Speed Shot, manufactured by ABB.  It’s not too much and does just what I need it to when I am in the gym at 5:15 AM.  I never feel jittery and have never had a bad experience with it.  Other’s I have tried make my anxiety hit level 9000 or my heart feel like it’s going to explode.  Be very careful with pre-workouts, friends.

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That’s it, guys and gals.  Less than you thought?  I have over twenty years of experience and knowledge with supplements, so I have had a chance to weed them out.  With that being said, these are the only ones I have ever had a good experience with and will continue to take in the long term.

If you have any questions, please fell free to ask.  Knowledge just may save you a ton of money!

Upper Body Friday

Ended the week with arms, as usual.  Spent a good bit of time working on my bench technique since I am about to begin lifting a lot heavier.  My bench has always been wizzy weak, but it does deter my motivation.  After a full-body warm-up, my gym partner and I hit the following:

Exercise: weight x reps x sets

Bench press: bar x 20 x 1, 95 x 10 x 1, 135 x 10 x 2, 185 x 3 x 1, 225 x 3 x 2 @8, 185 x 5 x 1

45 Degree chest press: 45 x 12 x 1, 70 x 8 x 1, 70 x 10 x 1, 45 x AMRAP

Superset –

  • Wide machine rows: 50 x 12 x 1, 70 x 10 x 1, 80 x 8 x 1
  • Wide lat pulldown: 80 x 10 x 2, 100 x 8 x 1

Superset –

  • Lateral raises: 25 x 10 x 3
  • Reverse cable shoulder flyes: 30 x 12 x 1, 30 x 8 x 1, 30 x 10 x 8

Superset –

  • Hammer curls: 35 x 10 x 1, 35 x 8 x 2
  • Dips: bdywght x 12 x 3

Started using my new Gorilla Pod, this morning, to make a video of some of the workout.  Check it out below!

Deadlifts and Noodle Legs

Today was deadlift day; one of my most favorite days of the week.  After a fully body warm-up and 10 minutes on the elliptical machine, I hit the following:

Exercise: weight x reps x sets

Sumo Deadlifts: 135 x 6 x 1, 185 x 4 x 1, 225 x 3 x 1, 275 x 2 x 1 @ 7, 315 x 2 x 2 @ 8, 315 x 1 @ 9

Note: I started playing with fatigue percentages, for the first time, in this workout.  I’ll go more into fatigue percentages in a future blog.  I have to learn how to use them before educating others.  Wasn’t really feeling the intensity, today. I normally lift way more than this, and I can only conclude that the volume deadlifts from earlier in the week are to blame.

ATG low bar squats: 135 x 7 x 1, 135 x 10 x 4

Note: These felt great!  I never thought I’d say it, but I really like doing squats for reps.  I went as low as possible, too.  Really liked these!

 

Lying machine leg curls: 50 x 12 x 2, 60 x 10 x 2

Note: These served as a great finisher.  Felt a good pump in my legs as I was walking out of the gym, but taking the stairs at work were a nightmare!

After today’s performance, and observing the way my lifts have been progressing, I think I’m going to hit the big lifts only once a week from here on out.  I have devised a pretty cool program that I am going to try using until time to peak for the meet in October.

Tomorrow is the last workout of the week, upper body, and I’m looking forward to filming some of the action with the new Gorilla Pod my wife just got me!

AM Upper Body Session

This morning my energy levels were a bit wacky, but I still managed to get a great upper body workout in.  Also, I didn’t perform as many super-sets as I normally do since I was having a hard time gauging my energy levels.  This approach is known as instinctive training!

After a full body warm-up, I performed the following:

Exercise: weight x reps x sets

Bb shoulder press: Bar x 20 x 1, 115 x 5 x 5

Note:  Since including these into my routine, both my shoulders and upper chest have made gains.

Incline db press: 50 x 12 x 1, 55 x 10 x 1, 60 x 8 x 1, 65 x 6 x 1

Note:  Slowly lowered weights on each rep.  Not necessarily considered negatives because my spotter did not assist in the concentric portion of the lift.

One arm db row: 60 x 12 x 1, 65 x 12 x 2

Note:  These almost made me puke.

Close grip lat pull-down: 90 x 12 x 3

Note: Squeezed the lats at the bottom of the movement.

Lateral to front db shoulder raise: 15 x 12 x 12

Note: This movement consists of combining a lateral and front raise to serve as 1 rep.

Tri-Set –

  • Close preacher curl machine: 50 x 12 x 3
  • Wide preacher curl machine: 40 x 10 x 1, 30 x 7 x 1, 30 x 6 x 1
  • Triceps cable pushdown: 35 x 12 x 3

Sitting calf raise machine: 70 x 12 x 1, 80 x 12 x 3

Note: Made sure to squeeze the calves at the top of the movement.

Throughout the day, my energy levels stayed pretty low.  With that said, I’m glad I exerted the most output in my AM workout.  I’m not too worried about why I had a day like this because I understand that days like this eventually come around for everybody.  When a day like this hits you, don’t skip the gym.  Go in and do SOMETHING.  It may not be the workout you had planned for the day, but at least it won’t be a missed one!

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What the heck is RPE?!

In a recent post, I spoke of RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).  It’s basically a method to help you gauge how intense your workout is or should be.  It assists the lifter by helping him/her determine what weight or degree of intensity should be attempted in a given workout; much like a percentage based program.  This method of gauging a workout is far different from a typical percentage based program, though.  To understand how it differs, one must know exactly what a percentage based program is and how it differs from using RPE to gauge your training intensity.

Your typical percentage based program can be found anywhere on the web.  The web is chock full of them.  Simply go to Google and type in “powerlifting peaking spreadsheet”.  The results will return a mind numbing amount of programs that will supposedly increase whatever lift you are focusing on as long as you stick to the prescribed amount of weight that fills in the spreadsheet rows.  What makes it percentage based is the fact that they use percentages of your 1 RM for a given lift. Well, I’m here to tell you that most of those programs are a waste of time.  Every time that I have attempted a percentage based program, I get injured.  Now, I know of guys that have yielded great results from a percentage based program, but I am not one of those guys.  Most people get injured or excel in their training only to bomb out at the meet.  The reasoning behind this is because these programs are written and tweaked for one particular individual.  Most of these particular individuals will get popular in the sport of powerlifting and then someone will post their routine online, hoping to make a buck.  After that, numerous people attempt the routine.  Some actually succeed with the routine, mostly geared individuals, but the majority fail.  A successful routine or peaking cycle must revolve around the athlete, not the assumption that they will be able to lift with the intensity level of the elite lifter in which the percentage program was originally designed for.  I have used a percentage based program, with great success, but it was provided by a professional lifting coach and was tweaked as we went along.

So, how is a person supposed to be 100% sure they are training with enough intensity if not chained down by a percentage based program?  The answer is insanely simple.  Train instinctively by listening to your body.  Since I have started training this way, I have been injury free and the gains are steady.  Slow, but steady.  To gauge the intensity of my workouts, I use RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).  RPE can be applied to all types of exercise, but I use it for my powerlifting movements (squat, bench press, & deadlift).  With all of my other exercises, I use different methods to gauge my intensity. Below are some charts that describe exactly what a RPE chart looks like for general fitness and weightlifting:

        GENERAL FITNESS                                                                WEIGHTLIFTING

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After viewing these two charts, I hope you see what I mean by gauging intensity.  RPE can be used with cardio, weightlifting, powerlifting, or whatever!  To get to a point in which you are using an RPE scale to gauge your workouts, you have to start keeping a log; if you don’t already. If you don’t have a log, even without using RPE, you will not progress much in your training.  When I first began recording RPEs, I wrote down the applicable number from the weightlifting chart above after my last set of a lift.  For example, I did squats with 315 lbs. for 3 reps on my last set.  I wrote “@9” next to that entry in my workout log.  This meant that I had one more rep left in the tank.  Had I not had one rep left, I would’ve written “@10” next to the entry.  Make sense?  I sure hope so because this is extremely straightforward compared to most of the other articles you will read on the internet that concern this topic.  Most of the articles require the reader to have a Masters in Science in order to understand all of the material contained in the article. There is no reason a simple explanation can’t be give, and a quick one at that!

To learn more, check out the RTS method of training.  RPE is just a small part of this awesome method; a method I feel everyone can benefit and see steady gains from.

Intensity Cycle Begins!

This morning’s workout was the beginning of an intensity cycle for my training partner and I. We have a powerlifting competition scheduled for October and need to step it up a bit in our training. Since February, we’ve been following the RTS method of training and have been receiving great results. While we will continue to use this method of training, our intensity training cycles will be a bit longer than the normal 3 week cycle and our volume cycles will be less than normal 3 week cycle. How much longer or shorter? We don’t even know. We are instinctively training, so things change with the wind. This will continue up to about four weeks from the meet; then we may do some type of percentage based peaking cycle.

Today was a heavy squat, dead lift accessory, and random movement day. Below is the flow of events.

Exercise: Weights x Reps x Sets

Started with a fully body Warm-up and hopped on the elliptical machine for 10 minutes.  Then hit:

LB (low bar) Squats: Bar x 7 x 1, 135 x 5 x 1, 185 x 3 x 1, 225 x 3 x 1, 275 x 3 x 1, 295 x 2 x 1,315 x 2 x 1, 345 x 1 x 1 (85 % of 1 RM) @ 9 RPE

Note: RPE means Rate of Perceived Exertion. Basically, it’s a numerical value to gauge how many more reps you have left in the tank on a given set of reps. At my last rep, I felt I was at a 9 RPE. This means I feel I had 1 more rep in me before failure. This equated to 85% of my 1 rep max of 402 lbs. on the squat.

Deficit Deadlifts (off a 45 lb. plate): 135 x 6 x 1, 225 x 5 x 5

Note: Performed these with the “touch and go” method. Normally, I completely rest the weight on the floor before lifting. With the “touch and go” method, I pull the weight back up as soon as the plates hit the ground.

Lying machine leg curls: 40 x 12 x 1, 45 x 10 x 1, BURN 45-30-15

Note: We always do a bodybuilding movement for lagging leg muscles at the end of this workout. I really want more of a defined look in my quads, so I tend to hit these pretty hard.  The BURN on the last set consists of a drop set in which I drop the weight after performing as many reps as I can with the recorded amount of weight, starting with 45 lbs. Why lift heavy if your legs don’t look the part?

I was very pleased with our performance, today, and can’t wait to see how many PRs we hit before we even step on the platform. I plan to write more about the RTS method of training since I have seen such great results in strength and overall body composition from following
it’s guidelines.

Tomorrow, we destroy the upper body!

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MB Slingshot Review

Recently, I gave the MB Slingshot a try.  A co-worker of mine had purchased one and, after witnessing him instantly add a good bit of weight to his bench his first time using it, I had to see what this thing was all about.  I borrowed it from him and incorporated in into my bench press, the very next day.  My training partner tried it, too.  If you don’t know what the MB Slingshot is, it’s really a huge band that you put your arms through for use with the bench press.

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We did a few normal warm-up sets and then decided to do all of our working sets with the Slingshot.  Immediately, we added more weight than usual.  Why?  Because the weights we normally lifted felt a lot lighter with the Slingshot.  See, the Slingshot works by assisting you at the bottom of the lift.  It basically slingshots the bar back up!  Also, I had no shoulder pain throughout my entire workout.  I normally suffer from pain in my right shoulder when a certain amount of weight is added to the bar.  This fact, in itself, made me want to purchase one.

Now, some would ask “why the need for such a training tool?”  The simple answer is overloading.  After reading more about the Slingshot, I learned that it’s best used at the end of a bench session.  Say you do 3 to 4 working sets.  After those sets, throw some more weight on the bar and slide on the Slingshot.  Then, knock out 3 more sets.  This method of overload training will eventually train your CNS to handle the heavier load.  In time, weight that could only be lifted with assistance from the Slingshot will no longer require use of it.  What do you do at this point?  Keep adding weight!

Upon returning the Slingshot to my co-worker, I felt the immediate need to purchase one.  There is no way
that this tool is a gimmick.  They have a few options available, which can be researched at http://www.howmuchyabench.net, and each is worth the money.

Note:  I am not funded by, sponsored by, or even know anyone from MB Slingshot.  I just feel it’s worth a solid review from an amateur powerlifter in hopes that it benefits others.