Monthly Archives: October 2009

Strength Training & Fat Loss: An Upper Body Day

As promised, I wanted to share with you a version of my current training schemes. I explained in my last post that we are working hard to eliminate body fat to bring me down to a very competitive percentage while preserving my muscle mass to present the best physique I can bring to the stage.


A good warm up is important to me. I want to be prepared to train. I want to make sure my CNS is fired, my muscles activated and ready for demand and most important to any prevent injury. Although as important as the rest of the session, if done right, they may not require a tremendous amount of time but they should be thoughtful to your training goals of that day. My upper body and lower body warm ups are VERY different. I have referenced quite a bit the band warm up I use for upper body days and below is a video clip for to help explain.

  • The warm up is designed to bring up my body temperature and prep muscles and movements. It is not supposed to be fatiguing. Choose a band that is moderate for you. We like to use the JC Bands.
  • Five movements, 20 reps per drill, 2 rounds.
  • The movements are: band pulls (hip dominant), row (starting from a bent over lat pull position), tight rotations (both sides), band press, chest fly (letting your shoulder blades retract between each fly).

**Note, when lifting heavy, after the band warm up, we always transition into the working sets with 1-2 sets of build up weight.


Moving on, we start out with strength work. In order to bring out my smaller muscles now, I isolate and pre fatigue my shoulders with a front raise before I hit incline press and isolate and pre fatigue my rear delts before rows.

  • For the smaller muscle groups (front raises and rear delt work), I completed 8-10 reps.
  • Bigger muscle movements (incline press and row), I completed 6-8 reps.
  • Four rounds, a minute between each round.

Strength work complete. On to metabolic conditioning. I mentioned in the last post, we do a variation of a complex every time. These are great for fat loss, they can integrate all muscle groups, elevate your heart rate and the list goes on and on.

  • a complex is a string of exercises back to back without rest inbetween.
  • 6-8 reps of each exercise 
  • go for speed if you can (without compromising form of course)
  • rest 1 minute between rounds
  • complete 3-6 rounds

The following is an example of a complex using dumbbells:

Last and never least! We move on to conditioning. As you know, I focus on upper body oriented conditioning on upper body days to provide my legs with the rest they need to recover. My upper body conditioning recently has been either boxing intervals or a circuit which I have posted in my Strength Training Split, High Rep, Part IV post.


Good Luck!


Tapping into the Bottom of the Barrel

As I arrive at the final weeks of training, my goals now are to maintain the muscle mass I have built and continue to reduce the last bit of body fat. My physical therapist once explained to me, those last lingering areas of body fat are the “bottom of the barrel” and once it’s gone from everywhere else, it will finally take from the bottom of the barrel.


We must be doing something right however because my body is responding. In the last 10 days, I continued to drop two percent body fat and gained one more pound of lean mass! And still 2.5 more weeks to focus!


We have a few focuses in my current workouts, to maintain my current muscle, bring out the little muscles and additional shape and shave the bottom of the barrel fat! Our bodies are designed to respond to its demands, so in order to maintain my muscle, we start off demanding strength in my session. After a proper warm up, I hit 4-6 heavy sets of two to three dominant exercises. 


As I mentioned however, our primary focus is creating a very metabolic response from my workouts to increase fat loss. After completing the strength portion, we move into dumbbell or barbell complexes to recruit a higher demand on my system. (I love these!) What is a complex?? A complex is composed of separate strength training exercises strung together back to back for a given number of reps each without rest. (I will give you an example and video clip in my next post). I usually perform a complex for four to five rounds with a set amount of rest in between each round.


Last but not least, to finish off the training day, we always have conditioning. I have two high intensity conditioning days which are more anaerobic and roughly 4 – 8 minutes long. I also have two moderate intensity conditioning days which are more interval based and roughly 12 to 15 minutes long.


There you have the structure of my training sessions for the final few weeks of physique show training. Again, there are so many ways to train and quite often, what works for one may be different from what works for the next…but it’s working for us!! Stay tuned in the next day or so I will be providing you with an upper body training day in this form.

Time to Zero In.

My show is in three weeks on Friday November 13th. For the past week and the next three, the focus on this show and the final prep involved are getting very zeroed in. As of Monday, Nick and I have shifted my training structure from the undulated series to a much more metabolic way of training. The objective here is to maintain my muscle mass but continue and hopefully even accelerate the process of getting that last bit of unwanted body fat off. Stay tuned for those training days, they are FUN and challenging!!


I have also shifted my focus to fine tuning my diet, working directly with my posing coach Blythe Alberg and competition specific training John Puskarich. Blythe and John are married and have both had a tremendous amount of time and experience in this industry. You can catch Blythe’s pod cast series titled “Cut the Fat” here.


As for my training structure, Nick and I are still operating on a upper/lower split. Saturdays have shifted from “Vanity Day” training to cross training conditioning. I will be joining an open mat session at Ground Control on Saturdays to do mit work for additional conditioning, shoulder and arm development and hopefully some killer core attention. Following that will be a private posing session with Blythe and tomorrow (Sundays) a rest day finally.


Lastly, I want to wish the guys at Ground Control a big GOOD LUCK. Several of the guys have been training hard to fight in Maryland’s first MMA fight tonight at the 1st Mariner Arena. I have had the enjoyment of hanging around these guys on Saturday’s as well as watching them train. I have a great respect and appreciation for their work ethic, their training drive and their passion for this sport. Nick has also been working with a few select guys on their conditioning for this fight and it’s impressive! You can see a clip of that training here.


To wrap this up, GOOD LUCK to Binky Jones, Ryan Mackin, Rick Desper, Dave Daniecki and Mike Pascal!

For the Love of Training.

I was training a client last week and I casually mentioned in conversation that although I wanted her to work hard, I wanted her to enjoy the hour and have fun while doing so. She honestly replied, “I thought I was supposed to hate all of this… you mean, this stuff is actually FUN for you???” I laughed at her sincerity and said, “absolutely!!” It was then that I realized a little further just how much I really DO love to train and how few of us actually feel this way.


I recently read an article on T-Nation by Jason Ferrugia that really coincided with my thoughts and feelings left behind from the prior conversation with my client. Regardless of your sport and or training goals, for those of us who have a passion to train, I wanted to share with you a few excerpts from the article about this passion:


  • “I train and I constantly strive to make progress. Training is so much more than working out. It helps you get to know yourself better. It teaches you what you’re really made of and how hard you’re willing to work to overcome adversity.”
  • “…to those of us who are married to the iron for life and feel most at home pushing heavy weight in some hole in the wall hardcore gym, it’s our passion. The squat rack is our church, the dead lift platform our temple.”
  • “I’ve gone to battle with the iron and come out on the losing end many times. I’ve strained, pulled, and torn muscles and ligaments. I’ve screwed up my back and injured my knees. I’ve sweat, bled, and puked… all in the same workout. But as Clark Griswold said to his daughter when her eyes froze over while searching for the perfect Christmas tree, “It’s all part of the experience.”I do it because I love it.”
  • “We do it for that feeling of going to battle, the rush of hitting a new max, and the pain and suffering that come along with it. We do it because we love to set goals and bust our ass in pursuit of them. We do it because it allows us to release all our pent up anger and aggression. We do it because we know most others don’t have the balls to train like we do. We do it for that feeling of camaraderie and competition between training partners.”
  • “That is one of the most important benefits of training many people often overlook; the mental aspect. Training is a release. It’s a time to leave all the problems of the world behind for an hour, a few days a week, and go to battle with the iron and with yourself.It teaches you a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of. The iron can be your best friend and your worst enemy all at once. But it will always be there for you when you need it.”
  • “I don’t care what your goals are and what you’re training for. I don’t even care how you train. My only hope is that you realize what a gift it is to be able to go into the gym and experience that kind of release and establish that kind of bond with the iron and the brothers that go to battle with you.”


Amen! I hope I didn’t do the article any injustice by clipping just pieces, but I think these are very well stated points and many of us can relate! Check out the full article on T-Nation here, “The Everlasting Bond” by Jason Ferrugia.

Strength Training Split, High Rep, Part IV

The last part of the High Rep series belongs to conditioning! In addition to my daily cardio, I always have conditioning after my strength workout. This may range from four minutes to 15 or 20 minutes depending on the goal of that day. We keep my conditioning consistent with the upper and lower split because so much conditioning is lower body dominant, that if we always chose to do sled work, sprints, bike intervals, etc. my legs would rarely get a chance to recover which would lead to cumulative stress and little benefits over the long run.


We are a bit more limited on upper body conditioning when it comes to traditional thought…but how good would we be if we limited ourselves to traditional thought…that is why we get CREATIVE! Upper body conditioning could include boxing, the band tabatas, animal movements, hammer work, the list can go on and on. The following is something we put together for a fun (and challenging), interval based conditioning session.


Here is one round:

1. One minute of tight medicine ball rotations.

  • 10 seconds (as fast as you can go), rotate shoulder to shoulder width, split stance. / 10 second rest.
  • 10 seconds (as fast as you can go), opposite split stance. / 10 second rest.
  • 10 seconds (as fast as you can go), square stance. / 10 second rest.

2. One minute push/pull using the Airdyne Bike handles. This offers great resistance with a consistent and smooth tension.

3. Two minutes of jump rope. Again, jump rope is a great variation for cardio, working shoulders, calves and you can have some fun with tempo and technique.

4. Rest one minute, and repeat!   (3 rounds for completion).

Strength Training Split, High Rep, Part III

High rep upper body day comes around about once every week and a half. We incorporate this day because it works the muscle fibers differently than heavy days or medium rep days. It also varies the intensity on my body and fits in with our daily undulation program.


We are coming down to the home stretch of training. About four more weeks of hard training and a few extra days of diet and recovery in the final days before the show. My training is about to switch up soon as we transition into pre-competition training. In the meantime, I am about to deliver my upper body high rep strength workout and still have the corresponding conditioning, as well as the entire mid range rep series to deliver to you!


I generally start a high rep upper body (HRUB) day with a “band warm up.” This is a series of five exercises (20 reps per exercise) using a medium weight JC Band. I incorporate pulling movements first, followed by rotational work and finish with pushing exercises to prep my muscles for what’s to come.


On HRUB workouts, we often incorporate drop sets, supersets and complexes. To start the workout off, I perform two rounds of a push up drop set series. It’s killer and starts with decline pushups, followed immediately after with regular push ups and finished with incline push ups.

  • This is a great way to start strong and gradually reduce the difficulty of the exercise however your already gased so the intensity remains the same.
  • You will see in the video below that I have added a 20 pound weight vest to the exercise to again, add intensity.
  • When performing these reps, our goal is to perform until you feel as though you have about TWO “left in the tank.” What I mean by this is, complete almost to fatigue but move on to the next exercise before failure.


In between each round of the Push Up drop set, I performed a set of external shoulder rotations for shoulder health.


Following the pushups and external rotations came:

  • A superset of Medicine Ball vertical tosses (for shoulder endurance) 30 reps
  • With a drop set of neutral, wide grip Lat Pull Downs — 8-12 reps per drop
  • We did this superset for two rounds


Last, before conditioning, I finished with a Row Complex. This was created by Nick and includes three stances:

  • A standing row (6-10 reps)
  • A lat pull row (6-10 reps)
  • A combination movement row (6-10 reps) **Make sure to keep knees soft, not locked and maintain a neutral spine when hinging forward at the hips.
  • Use a split stance. These are unilateral so the opposite foot is forward relative to the arm pulling
  • Complete two rounds per side


So there you have a great upper body high rep workout full of challenging drop sets, supersets and complexes. Stay tuned tomorrow for my upper body interval conditioning!

Great Job Nick!

Wow, Nick and I have been running like crazy the past few months. A Mexican Riviera cruise in August, a business/pleasure trip to Maui in September, a fitness conference this past weekend.. in addition to training clients, pumping out blog posts and articles, figure competition training, etc. Life has been busy!


We just returned from Myrtle Beach where Nick presented at the AFPA (American Fitness Professionals & Associates) Conference. He provided four lecture/workshops: The Truth about the Core, Self Myofacial Release, Strength Training & Conditioning for Fat Loss and Joint Friendly Strength Training. He did a fantastic job on all four classes and had some of the highest turnouts for class attendance in the whole conference!


It is nice having the support of your best friend, boyfriend and competition trainer all in one. It is challenging to travel during competition season. We have done so three times now. Fortunately, finding meals that agree with the diet parameters and carb cycling, finding time to train –not once, but twice a day–especially when the day is packed!– have all been made more managable having my support system right by my side. We were able to accomplish both diet and training while in Myrtle Beach without skipping a beat. A big thanks to him!


Make sure if you have not checked out his blog and website yet that you visit it here. Feel free to send him questions or comments. He does a remarkable job juggling travel, presenting to small and large groups, training a wide range of clients, providing cutting edge training information for Men’s Health, T-Nation and to name a few…all while dealing with a girlfriend who is on a STRICT DIET and regimine for a figure competition!


The human body, training and the strength & conditioning  industry are Nick’s passion. He spends countless hours on his work and education to continue delivering a concrete and valuable service to his clients, fellow fitness enthusiasts, trainers and strength coaches. Awesome job Nick!!


Now… more on Upper Body Split Training coming later today!