Q&A: November 2022

by on November 16, 2022

How important is it to always have some sort of periodization in your training? I’ve been training for around 8-9 years and lately I’ve sort of been feeling “lost” for lack of better words on what it is exactly that I’m doing. I know how to train, how to go in and overload the muscle and get a good work out in, but should I be striving to progress in say increasing my squat, my deadlift, etc. by consistently testing my maxes on them? Right now I vary my rep scheme and total volume each workout, use iso tension, pull up some of Johns workouts, different tempos, etc. but it just feels like I’m walking into the gym with no exact direction or clear goal in mind, other than losing fat for my show coming up.

I guess the quick version is: Is it always important to have a set program to follow that is aiming to progress your strength on a certain movement (to use that movement as a gauge)? Or can I just go into the gym and hit back for instance, using whatever I feel like to overload the muscle, pulling different exercises out of my ass for lack of better words.

Cris Edmonds
I see this all the time in the gym when I worked there and train now…….so many have no hard gameplan or even an outline to follow, and its why IMO, they never progress in terms of size and strength.

This is why the MD programs have helped so many put on quality muscle mass. Its because you have clear gameplan every time you go train. The volume is waved, intensity techniques are used and it removes all thinking. You just go in and work your tail off.

100% this is why you are not progressing. Even if you don’t use our program, write one for yourself, track data (strength, pumps and weekly pictures). Then make adjustments according to progress and performance.

Lastly, if it is all planned for you in advance, all day leading up to your session you can picture what weights you will use, how it will feel in your hands and then have goal numbers to chase. It would be like traveling across the country with no GPS vs having one. Could you hit your destination either way, YES. But which one would be faster?

Can you give me some pointers on calve training? I’ve been hitting them any where from 2 – 5 times a week. Building up frequency then dropping it when I feel like I’m starting to over do it. I mostly do standing, or straight leg stuff in the 6-10 rep range, 5-6 sets per session. I will chuck in each week some 20-30 rep sets, 10 second breaks, heavy partials, supersets, drop sets, 3 sec negs, rest pause past failure, toe raises between sets etc. basically mix it up doing anything and everything but nada works. The muscle belly isn’t a bad size either so I know they have room to grow! Please HELPPPPP!! 😉

Cris Edmonds
you are for sure on the right path. I have 2 suggestions:

Are you getting a crazy pump?? If not, I would assess your form. Next, I would add in 20-25 tibia raises between ALL sets of your calf training. You will be shocked how different this makes training your calves. Please let me know how this goes and you are more than welcome to send us some video of your form to ensure we are on the right track there.

I want to start a low carb or carb cycle diet how would I set up the ratios to figure out what would be considers my carb limit for the day?

Cris Edmonds
I actually love carb cycling and pretty much do this year round with myself and clients. Meaning I have drastically higher carbs on days that I train and then pull them way back on my off days where I increase fat so that my total calories aren’t in the tank.

As far as macro ratios, here is what I like:

Low/OFF days from lifting – Protein 50%, Carbs 20% and Fats 30%

High/Training days – Protein 40%, Carbs 45%, and Fats 15%

Now you will have to tinker around with your ratios if you are not getting the desired results in terms of progress or performance, but this would be a great starting point.

If you wanted to take it a step further, you could add a 3rd day in where you train your strengths with a moderate day – Protein 40%, Carbs 35% and Fat 25%

So the split may be: 2 off days, 3 moderate days, and 2 high days. That is a nice rotation that will keep fat low but performance high!!

Hopefully that helps you get on the path of how to properly carb cycle. The main thing is just adjusting the ratios based on your body’s feedback.

How would you structure a back pump session if you hammer a heavy back day on Monday? I find my second back day is a toss-up between doing volume vs intensity. What is ideal?

Cris Edmonds
So I would look to hit your back pump session on Thursday or Friday, based on your recovery. In terms of volume and intensity here is what I like to shoot for:

Volume: 15-20 total work sets (I know this may seem high, but if you pull down the intensity, this should be the perfect amount).

Intensity: I don’t use a lot of intensity techniques on this day, ie (drop sets, rest pause, cluster sets, etc). I tend to stick with straight sets in the 10-15 rep range and move at a good pace (45-60 second rest periods).

Then for exercise selection I tend to stick with mostly cables, machines and dbs. In addition there is ZERO low back work done on the pump day. The only exception I have is if my low back is tight, I will do 2 sets of 25 on reverse hypers to loosen it up. Lastly, I pick exercises that I feel deep in the muscle and have a great connection with.

An example workout may look like this:

Straight Arm PDs : 3 x 15, 12, 10

Favorite Lat PD of Choice: 3 x 15, 12, 10

1-Arm Machine Row: 3 x 10-12

Seated Cable Rows: 3 x 12 (with a 2 count hold on EVERY rep)

Db Pull overs x 10, superset with Banded Chins x 10. 2 Rounds

Total Work Sets – 16

In regards to cheat meals, how should they be implemented during a gaining phase? During a cutting phase I know the spike in calories helps kick-start the metabolism, stave off catabolism, and help replenish and refuel for grueling workouts to keep LBM. Do they have a place during a gaining phase? Perhaps once a week after a hard session (For me, back and legs)? Or do you limit them to just special occasions to help psychologically?

Andrew Berry
technically, free meals don’t really serve a purpose or are a must use in the offseason. You are in caloric surplus overall already. But here are a few reasons you might want to incorporate:
• Want to bolus increased calories around a certain body part
• Just need a break from “chicken and rice”
I see these as the main reasons to have a free meal. I tend to tell people to take them as they need them but in reality, they have a lot more freedom over their diets in the offseason. If they wanted to fit foods we weren’t already using into their plan and make substitutions, they have that freedom. For myself, I keep free meals of the burger and fries variety for when we are doing things with other couples. 9/10 times in the offseason we rarely take them or do something a little dirtier like Pho.

Besides the stretching prescribed in the program what do you do for recovery. We talked about sled in the last e mail but I was curious about a few things.
-foam roll? Pre, post, next day?
-tiger roll?
-lacrosse ball? Upper and lower?
-contrast showers?
-hot tub? When?
-salt bath? When? Ok post leg day after Intra nutrition but pre whole food meal?
-AM lemon water?

Andrew Berry
So, recovery is a pretty all-encompassing term and we can look at it a two ways.
1. There is general recovery. This is the day-to-day needs… water intake, sleep quality and time, nutrient needs, things of this nature that anyone, even non-athletes need to pay attention to.
2. Individual recovery- this has to do with what the individual needs to progress. Some people need to really pay attention to their training frequency, load and volume and be very specific with changes. Others need to incorporate deloads regularly. Others still need to add in prehab/rehab work for specific issues- usually those in the older population in terms of training years. Recovery from an injury would fit in this category as well.
There are many things to do for recovery- we have a whole section on this site dedicated to the various methods whether its massage, stretching, foam rolling, cryotherapy, heat therapy, and more.

To detail my own:
1. I have no qualms about taking a planned training day off from the gym as I get older. Younger me had to “stick to the program.” If I wake up and don’t feel great, I have no problem taking the day off or looking at pulling a training day out from the cycle for awhile if I feel like its too much. 4-5 days a week is perfect for me.
2. I have tight hip flexors which affects my back which affects my knees etc. etc. I foam roll the glutes and hip flexors, do the 90/90 stretch, be sure to hit abductors when I hit adductors and do several rounds of walking lunges without weight before I train legs or back.
3. I use cryotherapy once every 2 weeks or so.
That’s it.

Been reading the ‘in the trenches’ part of the website and you mention about taking re-feeds if somebody has strength dropping and you did it yourself going into the last week of a contest also.

My question is about re-feeds if you’re on a clean bulk or trying to gain weight , is there any reason why you would give someone a re-feed on a clean bulk or trying to gain weight.

Andrew Berry
I kind of addressed this in the earlier question about cheat meals and the answer is the same. There really isn’t a specific need for them as you are already in a caloric surplus- or should be

About 4-5 months ago I was prepping for a Men’s Physique show and got down to about 6-7% at 220g protein 45g fat 250g carbs a day with a refeed of 400 for carbs doing 3 days of LISS for 350 calories with one day of HIIT for 300. I got down to about 163

Fast forward to today. I am doing HIIT just once a week for 300 calories my current macros are about 210g protein 75g fat and 450g of carbohydrates. I am up to about 170g now and have put on a little bf but still am relatively lean probably 11-12%. My question is what are your thoughts on increasing fats vs carbohydrates? I train 6x a week now and do a good amount of intra/post carbohydrate supplementation using HBCD and do extremely well with it. My weight has been a constant 170-171 for about 3 weeks now and I obviously want to keep increasing if I can but wasn’t sure what your thoughts were to increase fats or carbs? I know I need to be patient but I feel like I have hit a plateau and need to put on a little more muscle before I step back on stage. Any advice would be helpful

Andrew Berry
We have a number of good articles and videos on this very topic. The man himself, John Meadows has this video, “How to Add Calories” as well as my article, “Post Show Dieting for Success”. I would give them a watch/read and if you still have questions, be sure to report back.

First, thanks again for taking the time to read and answer my questions so thoughtfully both in the past and now. I’m definitely sold on highly branched cyclic dextrin as an intra workout carb. My question is about intra workout amino intake.  I was hoping to get your thoughts on hydrolyzed casein, hydrolyzed whey and hydrolyzed caseinate (Peptopro). It looks like Intra-MD uses EAAs.

Andrew Berry
Ok, so first, with intra nutrition we want to make sure that we are feeding the muscles without needing the digestive process to take place. Why? Digestion involves the parasympathetic nervous system while training involves the sympathetic. Think rest and digest vs. fight or flight here. They are two conflicting things and if trying to do both you might find yourself running to the toilet or to a garbage can. Imagine trying to eat steak and rice in between sets of squats. Its not pretty. So, we need the nutrition to be predigested and easily absorbable. Enter hydrolyzed casein and EAA’s. These are individual amino acids or di and tri peptide chains and require no digestion to get to the blood stream. Combined with HBCD, and you have a carb and amino source to decrease muscle protein breakdown, enhance insulin and nutrition uptake.
I don’t see any difference in using casein hydro or EAA, so the EAA’s make more sense as they are a good deal cheaper.
There is a little confusion about hydrolyzed casein and whey. The casein is predigested to di and tri peptides which are absorbed in the intestinal lumen even faster than essential amino acids. Whey hydro isn’t on that same scale of absorbability so I wouldn’t use it in your intra shake.

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