First Things First

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Overflowing Questions

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It’s been almost a week since the deluge of 2017 and soon enough it will be time for spring training, boys and girls. Up and at ’em. The term “spring training” has a nice ring to it, bright and breezy. We’re gonna shape up, kids, let that energy fly. “Shape up” also has an appealing jingle, stirring visions of slim, trim and able. We’ll get to the gym on time, train vigorously and eat right. Ah, fitness is a sweet pursuit, and we tingle with excitement.

Of course, there are always a few who have a different point of view and a modified version of the zippy world proclamation. It’s more like, stop the world, I wanna get off. Their spring training neither jingles nor rings; it thuds, clunks and bombs. Must be something they ate and did since the end of last summer -- everything and nothing, respectively.

The rest of us, though, are here for our weekly dose of encouragement and reminders of good things forgotten, warnings against bad things lurking, revelations of secret musclebuilding knowledge and insights into cutting-edge methodologies, the latter two of which there are no such things. Nothing gets past this band of merry musclemakers.

Yet, many are newcomers in need of every bit of information they can grab from these cosmic pages. They’re disappointed, at first, to discover there are no shortcuts, but eventually pleased it’s all so simple. Just lift, lift and lift, eat the same old protein, rest and sleep. In five to 10 years, there you have it -- the semblance of a healthy, hardy body.

Now to keep it up the rest of your life, right through the fall and winter -- October through March, including Christmas, New Year’s and Easter. Which brings us back to the beginning, heading into spring training and its swell bouncy sound.

The best approach to spring training is to never ever lay off for an undue length of time. Anything more than a week once or twice a year is looking suspiciously excessive for a dedicated musclebuilder or fitness buff. And that prized period of time should be calculated as part of one’s training scheme: muscle repair, mental rest and workout planning. It’s also a good time for a vacation, house painting, spring cleaning and the flu.

Of course, the darnedest thing occurs as we skip and dance through our graciously assigned days: Life happens. To air my point, let’s go to the overflowing Q and A mail bag, grab a handful of letters and see what the rest of the bombers are up to this time of year.

Q) I’ve been training for two years and have lost 40 pounds of bulk, down to 210 from 250 at 5’10”. Three questions: My college has a bodybuilding competition every year in early April and I was wondering how long I should cut before the contest?

A) You’re doing great according to your recent progress report. Continue to lean down as that is the most satisfying strategy with the approaching fair weather. Be aware. Don’t starve the muscle to lose the fat; keep an eye on NEXT April, not this spring.

The time to bulk -- increasing your bodyweight 10 to 20 pounds over a desirable solid weight -- usually starts in the spirit and mind about mid-September as the summer fades and the winter casts its early shadows. Gain weight with good food only -- nutritious, wholesome and protein-packed -- and continue to develop disciplines by avoiding junk. The bulk weight gained is to be sound and used for strength, energy and a musclebuilding environment.
Hold the heavy weight -- plus or minus 3-to-5-pound fluctuations -- till you’re two months out. At that point begin your systematic, yet instinctive bodyweight descent. Though I can’t say accurately cuz I don’t know your specifics -- eight weeks should be sufficient. The average is 6 to 12 weeks for contest prep, depending on the lifter and his or her condition and raw materials.

It’s a long story best learned by experience.

Relax at this point. You don’t have to compete if you don’t want to. It’s entirely up to you (with a little help from one or two confidants). Approach the months ahead with this sense of freedom. Train for the show and if you feel like it at showtime, enter. If not, don’t, but at least you will have tasted the experience of training for one, and have the acquired practice and understanding for future reference.
You might discover bodybuilding contests are for the birds and stress-free musclebuilding is forever.

It all makes you stronger, win, lose or walk away.

Q) I’m doing a presentation on the positive and negative effects of being a pro bodybuilder. I was wondering if you could give me any input on what to talk about. 

Not a whole lot of positives on the pro side, other than the precious character accomplishments a person gains from pursuing a worthy goal intensely: discipline, persistence, perseverance, order, personal fulfillment, courage, life understanding.

There is also the engagement of a true challenge, the swell physique achieved and its satisfaction. The trainee grows in many ways in the process of competition, the backstage experience, the good and bad personal contacts, and the entertainment skills one engages in the display the wares before an energetic and admiring audience.

Training to compete professionally on a national level is tough and requires a great deal of dedicated time and resources. It is, thus, costly. And, unless one becomes a top national contender, there is little financial remuneration. This would come from prize money, product endorsements, a possible magazine contract or seminars. A few champs go on to write a book or become entrepreneurial and capitalize on their names and fame.

Training for serious professional competition is not healthy. An aspect of training to become a champion in today’s world that must be considered is the use of muscle- and training-enhancing drugs. They’re illegal, dangerous, destructive and expensive.

The best one can gain from training for competition is humility (honorable love of self), a love for the activity of musclebuilding and a love for life around oneself.

That was easy. The remaining 75,000 emails ask important things like how do I get huge, how do I get ripped, how do I bench 500, how do I grow taller. Each question is accompanied with a qualifier: in 30 days, without lifting weights, without dieting, while I sleep. I put these aside for another time.


The time to make an assessment of who and where you are has arrived. Often both the trainer and the training are in a muddle by mid-February, a condition indicated by a slump in spirit, energy, direction and progress. We want to go forward with vigor, but have yet to clearly define the urge and develop a plan to match.

Stop, look and listen.

Refresh your goals, reestablish your commitment, upgrade your workout and invigorate your disciplines. Remove the junk from the cupboards and fridge, and restock the empty space with goodness and vitality.

Imagine and think positively. Apply the solid, bold and mighty attitude of a lifter who knows, understands and engages the 10 Truths about training:

 ~ Consistency
 ~ Hard work
 ~ Creative workouts
 ~ Perseverance
 ~ Patience
 ~ Basic movements build best
 ~ Protein builds
 ~ Eat right
 ~ Sleep, rest and relax
 ~ Positive attitude

Now you’re talkin.’ Spread your wings and fly...

The Bomber


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