My most popular post, “The Six-Year Itch,” was capped with this statement:
I write this mostly for myself, as a return to what got me to damn near my genetic potential in the first place. High intensity weight training to total muscular fatigue, focusing on emptying the tank as fast as possible and judging progress by internal cues rather than forcing external metrics (e.g. raising weight just because or fidgeting to reach a better TUL).
If I end up training with weights more than 1 hour per week, I’m doing it wrong. I bet I can get it back down under 20 minutes like the old days. Hell, less than 10 minutes (per week) has let Vee achieve 18+ inch arms.
That post was just over 1 year ago and since then I’ve started grad school and have maintained a very busy training schedule. However, the perk of grad school is that I get Bodpod body composition measurements for a very reasonable cost. So on September 9th, 2011 I had a bodpod scan that gave me the following:
-Weight 173.898 lb
-Lean Body Mass 150.614 lb
-Fat Mass 23.283 lb
-Body Fat Percentage 13.4%
At that point I took on a constant loading program espoused by the late John Christy. I did this due to the fact that I didn’t have a trainer at my disposal to really drive me through high intensity workouts akin to Dr. Doug McGuff would espouse. I love carpet time but in order to achieve this you need to be able to give yourself over to a trainer you trust and Keith, and he’ll tell you this, is not a HIT trainer per se. That’s not to say that he’s not capable of kicking ass. So my workout was high-intensity oriented given that I didn’t have a trainer: big compounds with microloading. It also helps to know that I was coming off a hand injury that kept me from pulling hard or doing good chins. Here was my workout in early October:
- Trap bar Deadlift: 220 x 12, 200 x 12
- Weighted Chin: +12.5 x 12, BW x 12
- Weighted Dip: +30 x 12, +15 x 12
- Shrugs: 200 x 12
- Gripper: 92.41 x :45 x 2/each hand (static hold)
And here is where I was last week:
- Dip: +100 x 3, + 75 x 4, +45 x 5, +23 x 6
- Chin: +70 x 3, +47 x 4, +23 x 5, BW x 6
- Trap Bar Deadlift: 360 x 3, 326 x 4
- Dynavec Multi-Directional Hip Extension: 145 x 15
- Nitro Pullover: 210 x 10
And for what it’s worth I can now do much more weight for higher reps. For example I can do weighted dips with 65lbs around my waist for 10 reps. This should mean more muscle, right? Let’s look at a Bodpod from last week:
-Weight: 174.508 lb
-Lean Mass: 150.438 lb
-Fat Mass: 24.07 lb
-Body Fat: 13.8%
Say what?! Big strength gains and no muscle gain at all? This is what is called “Adaptive Coordination” and is how athletes locked in a weight class sport continue to get stronger in spite a lack of gain in muscle tissue. After trying to reason my way out of it, I went and got a Dexa Scan done which gave me this result:
Fat-Free Mass: 153.4lbs
Fat Mass: 23.2 lbs
Bone Mineral: 8.5lbs (HELL YEAH! MORE THAN KEITH! EAT IT!)
The Dexa had me at 176.6lbs, 1 hour later without any food or water intake, which makes up for the difference in lean mass between the bodpod and the Dexa. The cool thing about this, if I’m to look for a silver lining, is that I eat unweighed, unmeasured paleo and it keeps me rather lean. Not bad. However, I got stronger but not bigger, why?
My ability to lift weight improved due to a variety of things. This is just a short list of things I improved in the past 8 months:
- Inter and intra muscular coordination
- Motor learning
- Motor unit/fiber recruitment efficiency
- Golgi tendon inhibition
- Fatigue resistance
- Postural changes
- Connective tissue changes
- Improvements in cadence and turnarounds
- Pain tolerance
- Perception of difficulty
No less than 15 different things that can go up and allow weight to go up without muscle going up. There is a longer discussion about lifting ability versus lifting capability that is beyond the scope of this article.
The next stage: Bass + Blitz = Bomb Diggity?
So the next step is to see how I do with a full-on return to pure-HIT strength training. Specifically giving myself over to a trainer, my boss, and getting thrashed once a week in the weight room. On Saturdays I’ll run some Sprint-8 type intervals followed by a long weight vest walk. I won’t keep track of calories but I will eat more on those days just because I can.
If this looks familiar, it’s because this is exactly how Clarence Bass trains. At least that’s how he trained 14 years ago and no article I’ve read recently indicates otherwise. And like Mr. Bass, I’ll vary my routines while maintaining marker exercises: everything from Dr. McGuff-style workouts to Doug Holland-style deadlift+beer sessions. The latter will likely be once per month.
However, there is benefit of periodic volume and intensity increases. I’ve discussed the concept of the “critical point of change” as applied to power law dynamics, specifically the use of workout chaos to increase effort due to lack of coordination and the blitz to drastically ramp up demands and intensity at the same time. The thing is I’ve never actually done a blitz, not well, likely because I was too exhausted to get excited for one and/or the recovery demands are quite an undertaking. Think 4500+kcal/day, contrast bathing, weekly massage, loads of sleep, as little life stressors as possible. Ask Dallas about his clean mass gain and he’ll tell you just how hard it was to do for 5 weeks but 2 weeks is about the limit of a drastic, silly, obscene increase in effort, demands, and recovery work. Summer is where this could take place. I’ll plan on doing something like that in July and doing a bodpod right afterward. If it works, it validates both the ABCDE diet AND the No-Bull Mass Gain diet, at least somewhat.
“There is no failure, only feedback” is a saying that Arthur De Vany likes to use regarding his perspective on the lack of failure in life. I got stronger than I ever had been overall in my upper body and not a new pound of lean mass to show for it. This information is actionable and so we’ll see the result in another 4 months or so. Onward!
James asked this in the comments:
I’d be interested to know what the inter and intra day reliability of your individual bodpod unit is. We have a bodpod and as part of our lab accreditation we had to perform a reliability study on it and although I can’t remember the coefficients of variation of the top of my head I do recall it was higher than expected. Bodpods better than most body composition measures, but far from perfect.
This is a great question that I don’t have an answer for but I can tell you that it was the reason I got the Dexa done to “check” the accuracy of the Bodpod. Halfway through the interval of this experiment, on 12/13/2011, I had a Bodpod done: same administer, same time of day, same status (17 hours fasted, no liquids since 8pm the night before). The results were as follows:
- Body Weight: 175.04 lbs
- Lean Body Mass: 151.437 lbs
- Fat mass: 23.603 lbs
- Body fat: 13.5%
So it might be off slightly day to day, it seems to be consistent enough to track long term changes, at least as consistent as hydrostatic weighing. That seemed to work for Clarence Bass, so I figure it’s OK for me for a very accurate directional accuracy.