Do you have cheat meals in the off-season and pre-contest?
I eat pretty clean most of the time, but in the off-season I tend to eat two cheat meals per week. And there will usually be a clean cheat meal, like sushi, and a dirty cheat meal, which could be almost anything—all the usual things we get cravings for. You just have to keep the dirty cheat meal in check. Eat in moderation to satisfy your taste for the extra fat and sugar. Don’t pig out. If you’re eating frequent meals—six per day, as I recommend—you should never be that hungry, so when you do eat some dirty food, you shouldn’t have to eat a lot of it to fill up.
Anyway, the one clean cheat meal and one dirty cheat meal per week is what I aim for, but there’s nothing really set in stone. There can’t be with my schedule, because I travel so much. I spend a lot of time in hotels and airports in places I’ve never been to before, and sometimes I have to eat where I can and make the best choices I can. After I do a guest posing, the promoter will usually take me out for a meal, and that will probably be a cheat meal. But most bodybuilders I know eat something bad once per day in the off-season. I try to limit it to twice per week.
Even pre-contest I can still have a clean cheat meal once per week or so. That’s almost always sushi. I just get stuff like salmon and yellowtail tuna sashimi. Sometimes, if I’m dropping too fast pre-contest, Neil will say, “Go have some sushi.” [Neil Hill is Lewis’ trainer/nutritionist.] He knows when I order sushi on a diet I’m not going to have any fried crap or any of those rolls covered with sauces or anything like that. It’s just raw fish, which is great, and some extra calories from the rice. It’s weird how what most people consider “very clean” is cheating for a bodybuilder on a diet.
I have a lot of trouble building up my calves. I’ve heard you do something for calves called hybrid training. Can you explain what this is?
I can’t really relate to having stubborn calves. Believe me, I know a lot about having a stubborn chest or back, but calves have always been my easiest growers. They grow so fast, I go for long periods without training them just to keep them in balance. The thing is, though, when I do train them, I train them hard. There’s no reason to just do what some might call a “maintenance workout,” trying to stay where you are. The reason to train anything with weights is to stimulate muscle growth. So, I have easy-growing calves, but I also use a brutal routine that can help those who have hard-growing calves.
Hybrid training is basically a triset or giant set, but it combines exercises with weights as well as with just body weight, and it incorporates lots of stretching and squeezing. Many bodybuilders do six to eight lazy sets after legs and call it a workout, and then they wonder why their calves don’t grow. Your calves are small compared with your quads, but they’re not small when compared with your biceps. Also, they’re used to working with low intensity all day just by walking. They need volume and intensity to grow. Hybrid training serves up both.
It really started with my getting sadistic, doing a lot of deep stretches for holds and really strong contractions. You can really go medieval on your calves while just using your body weight. With the weight out of the way it lets you focus on the stretches and holds for as long as you can stand the pain. I’ll go through three different rotations. I call them giant sets from hell, and if you try them you’ll see why. At the end of each rotation, I stretch for a minute and then go back to the first exercise. I go through each rotation three times, and I also come back to the first one at the end for a fourth rotation. Sometimes, I’ll do just Rotation 1 and Rotation 2 (seven trisets and giant sets total), and sometimes I’ll do all three rotations (10 trisets and giant sets total).
■ Seated Calf Raises I start with seated calf raises for 30 reps.
■ Body-weight Calf Raises (on block) As soon as I hit 30 on the seated, I get off the machine and stand on a block, balancing myself by holding on to something. I do 30 quick calf raises on the block with just my body weight, getting a full stretch and holding each stretch before coming up.
■ Body-weight Calf Raises (on floor) I step off the block and do 30 more calf raises standing on the floor, which eliminates the stretch and puts all the focus on the contractions. These are like half reps.
■ Standing Calf Raises These are regular standing calf raises on a machine for 15 reps. I like to vary my heel position, to do some sets with my heels in to work the inner calves and some with my heels out to work the outer calves.
■ Body-weight Calf Raises (toes on plate) I do 15 reps of calf raises with my toes on a 35-pound plate.
■ Body-weight Calf Raises (toes on floor, heels touching plate) Then I do 15 reps of body-weight calf raises with my toes on the floor and my heels touching the 35-pound plate at the bottom of each rep. This makes these partial reps really focused on contractions.
■ One-leg Body-weight Calf Raises (on floor) I end up with one-leg calf raises standing on the floor for 15 reps with each leg. Again, I do three of these rotations.
■ Calf Presses I use a leg press for these, and again I like to change my heel position from set to set and sometimes within the set. I’ll do 15–30 reps, depending on how I feel.
■ Body-weight Calf Raises (toes on plate) The same as before for 15–30 reps.
■ Body-weight Calf Raises (toes on floor) Again, the same as before here. I can give a rep range of 15–30 for these, but the important thing, especially for all the body-weight exercises, is to go to failure. If you don’t even count reps, your body will decide when the set is over. You’ll know when you can’t get another rep the moment you truly can’t get another rep.