Lately it seems every time you turn on the television, go online, or flip through the pages of a magazine, there are quizzes everywhere asking how well you know a certain subject with “Fact or Myth” and “True or False” questions. It’s always interesting to learn the truth about important topics that can affect your life, health, finances, etc., but even more intriguing is that some of what we always thought to be “facts” are now deemed incorrect.
Take for instance your doctor’s sound advice to tip your head back when having a nose bleed to stop the blood flow—this is now advised against. Just as general beliefs change, so do the way we see philosophies on training, diet, and preparing for an event. Below are some of my top “Myth Busters” regarding weight and fat loss.
1 MYTH Lifting light weight with high repetitions is the only way to get lean.
One thing I am most frequently asked about from novice and pro athletes alike is whether they have to stop training for strength during a contest phase and lift only light weight with high reps to create definition and a lean physique.
The myth that you need to train with high reps and light weight to lean out has a great deal to do with the mindset of the athlete and what we have been programmed to believe: We will automatically lose strength and simply cannot stay as strong as we were in the off-season once dieting begins, so the best way to compensate for this is to perform light-weight, high reps to yield a lean and ripped physique.
My philosophies with nutrition are based on constant change, and that is why I refer to my nutrition style as “multi-phase manipulation.” However, when it comes to how you train during a contest phase, I have an unyielding stance on not veering from the training path you were on prior to beginning your diet. I’m a firm believer in old-school heavy training, no matter if you are in off-season or pre-contest mode. If you are my athlete, I want you to strive to hold on to as much muscle as possible even during the diet, because the more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn and the leaner and more ripped you will be. With this in mind, it only makes sense to stick with lifting as heavily as possible to maintain size. We are more knowledgeable in the areas of training and nutrition than ever before. Today’s diets are no longer about starvation, but rather are rich in foods that will enable us to maintain strength and muscle while chiseling away fat. A well-planned nutritional program teamed with cardio and heavy training will enable you to keep your muscle while displaying a lean, ripped physique.
Watch today’s pros train—the vast majority of them stick with basic, heavy moves throughout the greater part of their contest training program. Imbedded in our minds are the legendary bent over row sets of 455 and the 800-pound deadlifts performed by Ronnie Coleman four weeks out of his Olympia preparation. Another example that comes to mind is the incredible strength my wife (four-time Ms. Olympia Kim Chizevsky) possessed throughout her Ms. Olympia training. At two weeks out of the competition, she was still able to squat 335 pounds for 20 reps—by no means light weight.
2 MYTH Intense cardiovascular training will burn muscle and thin out my legs.
Once again, it’s a case of believing what we have been told over and over again for years and, to me, an excuse to be lazy when it comes to doing cardio! You have it stuck in your head that cardio will burn up muscle and whittle away your legs. This frame of mind primarily comes into play within the first few weeks of prepping for a show: You are losing water weight and sodium from the body through diet and cardio, your pumps aren’t as good, and you don’t hold glycogen as well, so you must be losing size from cardio, right?
The truth of the matter is, for most athletes, cardiovascular training is needed in addition to diet and weight training to rid the body of the excess body fat that masks the separation and definition of the muscle; and if done correctly, you will not lose muscle and/or size from your legs.
My position is that if you perform cardiovascular training for more than one hour at a time, you risk burning muscle. For instance, when my wife, Kim, retired from bodybuilding and wanted to trim down, we devised a plan for her to burn up muscle so she could become smaller. She purposely ate fewer meals and a lot less protein, stopped all weight training, and performed at least 11⁄2–2 hours of cardio at a time (for a daily total at that point of around three hours), as we knew this would help burn up her “bulky” muscle.
From a bodybuilding standpoint, I always break cardio into two sessions (if an hour or more of cardio a day is necessary for an individual)— one session in the morning and one in the evening. This way, if athletes need to do one hour, they can break it into two 30-minute sessions; and as the diet progresses, if they need more cardio, they can equally divide the sessions so they are never doing more than 45 minutes to an hour at any single time, thus eliminating the risk of burning muscle or thinning out the legs. When working with IFBB pro Ben Pukalski, recently, we did just that.
Ben started his 2012 Arnold Classic prep with one 30-minute session daily on a StepMill. Although his progress was steady and he was leaning out at a decent rate, I knew we could carve out the shredded glutes and quads that the judges and fans craved from Ben through more intensive cardiovascular training, without sacrificing his trademark freakish leg size. I decided to add in a second cardio session and gradually crept up the duration per session until Ben was performing two 1-hour cardio sessions—primarily on the StepMill—performed as intensely as possible. The result was freaky conditioning and separation that appeared shrink-wrapped on Ben’s legs. He didn’t sacrifice size, and the result of ultra-shredded legs and glutes gave his lower limbs an even larger appearance.