D: Si allena con esercizi a corpo libero?
R: No, ma, correttamente applicati, alcuni esercizi col peso corporeo possono essere molto buoni. Io preferisco i pesi, però.
D: Sta scrivendo nuovi libri sull’allenamento?
D: Quale libro è migliore per iniziare il bodybuilding tra: “Brawn” o “Oltre Brawn“?
R: Il mio consiglio è di iniziare con “Costruire muscolo, perdere grasso, apparire al meglio. Tutto quello che dovete sapere per trasformare il vostro corpo.”
È più completo degli altri due libri, e comprende la tecnica di esecuzione degli esercizi in dettaglio.
D: Qual è il peggiore errore quando si cerca di aumentare la massa muscolare?
R: Ti ripeto la mia risposta precedente: “La maggior parte dei culturisti che hanno pochi guadagni muscolari sono colpevoli degli stessi errori: sovrastimano il volume di allenamento con i pesi che è meglio per loro, non si concentrano sui migliori esercizi, non utilizzano la tecnica corretta per l’esercizio, non si allenano abbastanza difficilmente, non soddisfano pienamente le componenti di recupero, non si sforzano abbastanza (se non del tutto) per costruire la forza, non impostano correttamente i propri obiettivi, e non tengono un diario di allenamento.”
D: Quando sarà pubblicata di nuovo la rivista HARDGAINER?
R: Non ci saranno nuove emissioni della rivista hardgainer.
D: Come si allena oggi?
R: Vi consiglio di studiare il mio ultimo libro “Dentro la mente di un’icona del ferro” che è disponibile su Amazon.
D: Grazie per questa intervista!
R: Grazie a te!
Stuart Mc Robert’s Interview
Q: Hello Coach McRobert. It’s a great pleasure to “talk” with you about Old School Training. What do you think about it?
A: Old School Training has a number of interpretations. You’re not the only one to use this term. Some people have used OST to describe the methods I promote.
When OST refers to methods that don’t require drug support, or exceptional genetics for bodybuilding, I’m all for it. But some interpretations advocate a volume and frequency of training that’s excessive for drug-free, genetically normal bodybuilders. Individual bodybuilders need to experiment, to find the volume and frequency that work best for them. This may mean less overall training than what’s sometimes advocated by OST, and just two workouts per week.
Reg Park is sometimes presented as an example of someone who used OST. Some of the routines advocated by Reg are excessive for most drug-free bodybuilders. Reg was genetically highly gifted for building muscle and strength. What worked wonderfully well for him won’t do the same for drug-free bodybuilders of average genetics for bodybuilding. The interpretation used by Reg needs to be modified in order to suit drug-free bodybuilders with normal genetics for bodybuilding.
Q: When was doping born?
A: It took off in the 1960s, but started in the 1950s in very limited circles.
Q: Why do some natural old school lifters love the multifrequency and you, I think, don’t?
A: I advocate what works best for the individual. If what you’re doing works well for you, stick with it. But if what you’re doing isn’t working well for you, make changes. One of the changes may be to reduce training frequency.
Properly designed, routines that involve three workouts per week can work well for some drug-free bodybuilders of average genetics for bodybuilding, and I sometimes recommend them. But, generally speaking, I recommend just two workouts per week.
Q: We love multifrequency in buffer and not single workout per body part with failure rep. What do you think about it?
A: You seem to have misunderstood what I promote. I’ve promoted a number of variations of abbreviated training routines, including an approach similar to yours. There isn’t a single one-size-fits-all approach for all drug-free bodybuilders.
I advocate what works best for the individual. If what you’re doing works well for you, stick with it. But if what you’re doing isn’t working well for you, make changes. The changes may be to train harder but with fewer work sets, and just two workouts per week.
Most bodybuilders don’t train really hard. Even some bodybuilders who think they train to failure, don’t. They actually cut their work sets short by one or more reps. If they were properly supervised, they would be surprised with how much harder they could train. And so long as they don’t train too much, or too frequently, they may be surprised with how much faster they can make progress if they train with more intensity, and recuperate properly between workouts.
If those bodybuilders who think they train to failure, but don’t in reality, lower their intensity by reducing their “failure” sets by a rep, they are unlikely to train hard enough to stimulate muscle growth.
I agree that stopping a set one rep short of absolute failure can be an effective way to train, but making an accurate assessment of the “one rep short of absolute failure” is difficult, if not impossible, for many bodybuilders.
Q: What the difference between the workouts of the old and the new bodybuilders?
A: If by “old” you mean pre-steroids, and by “new” you mean steroid-using, the difference is huge. Bodybuilding drugs greatly increase the volume and frequency of training that the individual can recover from. This is the main reason why the six-days-a-week split routines took off in the 1960s and were promoted big time by the bodybuilding magazine. (The 1960s was the first full decade when steroids were hugely influential in the bodybuilding world.) Those routines worked very well for the bodybuilding champions of the time because they were all benefitting from steroids, and some of them also had freaky genetics for bodybuilding. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the most prominent example.
But the training methods that work well for those bodybuilders don’t work much, if at all, for genetically normal, drug-free bodybuilders.
Q: Here in the Italian Old School Training community, we believe that beginners should limit themselves to basic, compound exercises (multi-joint exercises) such as squat, bench press, deadlift, etc., rather than using isolation exercises (single joint movements) such as lateral raises, front raises, flies, or leg extensions. After the trainee has developed a solid foundation and has reached the intermediate or advanced stage, he can include some single-joint exercises. Do you agree with that approach?
A: Prudent use of isolation exercises can be helpful, but the ones you mentioned are often more likely to hinder muscle-building progress than help it. For example, when a bodybuilder knows he has leg extensions and leg curls to do, he will consciously or subconsciously hold back in the squat, even if he squats first. No amount of work on leg extensions and leg curls can compensate for insufficient effort in the squat.
Of course, I’m referring to drug-free bodybuilding for genetically normal bodybuilders. Everything changes for the training of drug-assisted bodybuilders, especially those who also have exceptional genetics for bodybuilding.
The major compound exercises best suited to the individual should be the primary ones that bodybuilders use. That may not include the barbell squat, though, depending on the individual.
Q: How does a novice set about developing big arms?
A: Focus on building overall muscle and strength.
Build 15 kilos of overall muscle, and your arms will develop nicely too. Do that by focusing on a handful of major compound exercises, and becoming really good at them. When a beginner has developed to the level of bench pressing 120 kilos for five reps, and chinning with 20 kilos around his waist for five reps, his arms will be much improved. If he sticks at it for long enough, and can then bench press over 140 kilos for five reps, and do five chins with 35 kilos around his waist, his arms will be much better still. And all without any isolation arm exercises.
But if a bodybuilder can’t cope without including some curls, he can include a few hard sets once a week.
Q: What do you think of full-body routines for professional natural bodybuilders?
A: For off-season training, that approach could work, if it’s properly designed and implemented. But at other times there will be a need for some isolation work along with the major compound exercises, so a split routine and a three-days-a-week schedule would be a better solution for them—for example, upper body on Monday, lower body on Wednesday, upper body on Friday, lower body on Monday, and so on.
Natural bodybuilders who compete at a high level have better genetics for bodybuilding than is typical. As a result, they will have a higher potential, and better recovery ability, and thus be able to make good progress on routines that will be excessive for other natural bodybuilders.
Some elite “natural” bodybuilders use steroids. Just like some elite “clean” athletes use steroids. Those “natural” bodybuilders and “clean” athletes benefit from training routines that are way excessive for true natural bodybuilders and athletes.
Q: What do you think about Olympic weightlifting for mass?
A: This requires a level of supervision and technique expertise that’s not available to most bodybuilders. It’s much better to stick to simpler exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and so on. But even these “simpler” exercises aren’t so simple, and must be performed with correct technique, which usually requires expert supervision.
Q: Is building strength really important for developing muscle mass?
A: “To build bigger muscles, build strength,” is a simplification that reduces bodybuilding (and strength training in general) to its essentials, and makes the task intelligible. When properly applied, it’s a super effective maxim. As I first wrote many years ago, “If you lift Mickey Mouse poundages all you’re going to get is a Mickey Mouse body.”
Most bodybuilders complicate their workouts, to their cost.
But just shoving more weight on the bar regardless of the form used is a bastardization of the maxim, and a prime example of when the maxim is improperly applied, or “oversimplified.”
Building strength is the primary method of progression when lifting weights. The ability to build strength varies from individual to individual, as does the ability to build muscle. Some bodybuilders build greater muscle mass relative to the same strength increase than other bodybuilders, depending on how they train, and on their physiology, anatomy and structural configurational issues. And, often, drugs play a big role.
Some bodybuilders, who are invariably drug-enhanced, have built muscles much larger than what their strength would indicate, from their pumping-based, high-volume, six-days-a-week training. But with adjustments to their training, including trading some isolation exercises for proper squatting and deadlifting, they would build even bigger muscles, and without training so much.
Of course, many hugely muscled, drug-enhanced bodybuilders have built tremendous strength.
But let’s look at something way more important than finding some examples of men who built big muscles without building a lot of strength:
Since the start of the drug era in the weight-training world—around 1960—millions of drug-free bodybuilders and other bodybuilders have discovered that high-volume training of four or more workouts per week doesn’t produce good results for building strength or muscle.
What works for a small but prominent minority who have genetic gifts, and drug assistance, is of no relevance for typical bodybuilders who have normal genetics and don’t use bodybuilding drugs.
If you don’t believe what I have to say here, by all means dedicate yourself to a few months of high-volume, six-workouts-a-week training. Most bodybuilders seem to have to waste a chunk of their lives on ineffective training methods before they learn the key lessons.
Building strength is a tremendously satisfying part of weight training in its own right. Even if it didn’t usually accompany increased muscle size, the drug-free strength building would still be worth doing just for itself and the many important health-related benefits that accompany it.
Considering the same individual, and keeping all other variables the same, it’s usually easier to build strength at a higher bodyweight than a lower one. And this is one of the major reasons why many strength-priority bodybuilders maintain a higher percentage of body fat than bodybuilders usually do.
Some strength-priority bodybuilders allow their body fat to go very high. Although some very strong men have a lot of muscle, it’s buried under a lot of fat. In the minds of many aesthetics-first bodybuilders, the strong-but-fat men give the wrong image for strength training.
Staying very lean, especially for genetically normal, drug-free bodybuilders, usually precludes muscle growth of any significance; but some strength building may still be possible, depending on the individual, and on the specific training and recuperation that’s applied. This is why a recommended body-fat percentage for a male bodybuilder who wants to build muscle mass is around 15%. (To show good definition, though, around 10% body fat is required for a man. To show outstanding definition (“ripped”) for a man, under 8% is required.)
A physique-priority bodybuilder who stays very lean all the time is unlikely to build substantial additional muscle mass unless he has outstanding genetics for bodybuilding, or he’s on bodybuilding drugs.
For most bodybuilders for most of the time, the maxim of “to build bigger muscles, build strength” is the best one to follow for bodybuilding. But it must be done properly.
Some bodybuilders have told me that they added 10 kilos to their bench press but didn’t see any increases in muscle mass. Ten kilos isn’t enough to make a difference for most bodybuilders, even if their exercise technique is correct. But if they build an additional 60 kilos on their bench press using correct form, for five or more reps, then they will see a substantial difference in their muscle mass.
Some bodybuilders have told me that they added 30 to 40 kilos to their squats, but didn’t see any increases in muscle mass. But when I checked out their form, I discovered why they hadn’t built any muscle. Reducing the range of motion, and wearing knees wraps, enabled them to have much more weight on the bar, but those actions didn’t do anything to build muscle because they didn’t require additional muscular strength.
In large part due to their structural configuration, support gear, and exercise technique used, some lightweight powerlifters have lifted huge weights in comparison with their bodyweight.
For example, some lifters with the flexibility and resilience to produce a huge arch can correctly perform a meet-legal bench press using a short range of motion. But that example of performance isn’t the “to build bigger muscles, build strength” that I’m referring to.
Extra iron on the bar will only accompany increased muscle mass if the increased weight is from “clean” training—consistently good exercise technique, which includes a consistent range of motion for a given exercise. And reps of at least five per set are, in most cases, likely to accompany larger muscle growth than reps fewer than five.
Of course, no matter how much you may believe the maxim of “to build bigger muscles, build strength,” in order to build a lot of additional strength it’s essential that you properly apply yourself to appropriate weight-training routines in combination with consistently satisfying the components of recuperation between workouts.
As an illustration of the significance of building strength, let’s consider the plight of countless typical drug-free bodybuilders in their late teens, or their twenties, or their thirties—men who desire substantially increased muscle mass, and who have pseudo-trained for several years but haven’t been satisfied with the results.
Let’s say that their average best current lifting is squat 100 kilos x 5, bench press 80 kilos x 5, and deadlift 120 kilos x 5. (In reality, probably only the bench press is common to most of these bodybuilders, but let’s include all three exercises, to make the point really clear.) If they continue with their usual training methods for the next 12 months, their best efforts in those three exercises will be little changed. (This is a realistic assessment because most drug-free bodybuilders at that level don’t make much change thereafter.) As a consequence, they won’t have muscles noticeably bigger no matter what else they may have done in the gym during those 12 months.
But if, instead of the improper training, they train and recuperate properly for 12 months, and can then squat 125 kilos x 5, bench press 95 kilos x 5, and deadlift 145 kilos x 5, they’ll see somewhat larger muscles.
Then if, after a further 12 months of proper training and recuperation, they can squat 150 kilos x 5, bench press 110 kilos x 5, and deadlift 170 kilos x 5, they’ll see noticeably larger muscles still.
And then if, after another 12 months of proper training and recuperation, they can squat 170 kilos x 5, bench press 125 kilos x 5, and deadlift 200 kilos x 5, they’ll be among the standout drug-free bodybuilders at almost any gym in the world.
And then if, after a further few years of proper training and recuperation, they can squat 215 kilos x 5, bench press 160 kilos x 5, and deadlift 255 kilos x 5, they’ll be supermen by drug-free standards in any gym. (They would, though, have had to be blessed with much better than average genetics for bodybuilding to be able to get to this level.)
These particular three exercises aren’t the best primary ones for all bodybuilders, but whichever are the best primary exercises for each individual bodybuilder, the same maxim of “to build bigger muscles, build strength” still applies.
This maxim isn’t the whole story of bodybuilding, of course. But for most bodybuilders for most of the time, and especially drug-free ones, this maxim, when applied properly, should be the primary guiding light.
Training and recuperation should be organized and applied so as to make strength building as readily doable as possible, but without overdoing food intake and becoming fat.
The gradual but persistent building of strength, even at just half a kilo at a time, adds up to tremendous progress over the long-term. Put the principle into practice yourself!
A valuable, if not essential part of the strength-building process, is the use of “little gems”—one-pound, half-pound and quarter-pound weight plates, or their metric equivalents.
Q: For the bench press technique in the concentric phase, should the bodybuilder lift the bar in vertical, oblique, or a mix of two?
A: Each bodybuilder should try the options, and see which bar pathway works best for him. But avoid substantial horizontal movement.
If, no matter what you do you still struggle with the bench press, try the parallel bar dip instead. Done with correct exercise technique, the parallel bar dip has proven to be a more effective exercise than the bench press for many bodybuilders.
Q: Do you think that there is an optimal training frequency for each muscle group, or is frequency only a training parameter and should be periodized like intensity, volume etc?
A: Training frequency can vary relative to the volume and intensity used, and the individual.
Q: What kind of tips could you give to our Italian fans?
A: Most bodybuilders who find gains hard to make are guilty of the same errors: They overestimate the volume of weight training that’s best for them, don’t focus on the best exercises, don’t use correct exercise technique, don’t train hard enough, don’t fully satisfy the components of recuperation, don’t strive enough (if at all) to build strength, don’t set goals properly, and don’t keep workout records.
Q: Failure or not, High Intensity Training or Buffer? Which method is best?
A: All of them can work, and all of them can fail. It depends on how they are implemented, on how the components of recuperation are implemented, and on the individual concerned.
Q: I believe that Arnold trained, early on, with full-body routines and only free weights and multi-joint exercises. What do you think about that?
A: If that was the case, his training changed a great deal shortly afterwards, perhaps around the time when he started taking steroids.
Although Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training methods caused me enormous frustration during my first few years in bodybuilding—because they didn’t work for me—he still played a major part in enabling me to make a career out of bodybuilding.
The frustration motivated my search for training methods that work for natural bodybuilders with normal genetics for muscle-building, which in turn led to my books and magazine articles on bodybuilding instruction.
And it was the poor results that countless bodybuilders got from conventional training methods that drove many of them to try the alternative methods I promote.
Although I craved to be a professional bodybuilder, it was an unattainable goal because my heredity didn’t provide me with the potential to build huge muscles, and I wasn’t willing to take bodybuilding drugs. But the lessons I eventually learned enabled me to build about 20 kilos of muscle, transform my physique, and deadlift 400 pounds (182.5 kilos) for 20 reps—drug-free, and with normal genetics.
I started bodybuilding in 1972, aged 14, when Schwarzenegger was in his prime. I particularly recall an album of photographs taken mostly in the 1960s, including four astonishing shots of the 19-year-old Schwarzenegger taken at the 1966 London Mr. Universe. (I still have that album, nearly 40 years on.)
Schwarzenegger’s physique, and the persona promoted by the muscle magazines, produced an icon that dominated bodybuilding. Although his Mr.