I had heard this kid’s spiel countless times. Gyms across the country, probably around the world, dealt regularly with wide-eyed teens, inspired by the newsstand mags and dreaming of a pro bodybuilding career. In their naïve eyes, they see themselves traveling the US, being adored by fans, flocked by groupies, and paid huge bucks just to train, appear in ads and give guest posing exhibitions. If only they could see just a slice of the behind-the-scenes lives most of these pro card "winners" experience. For 90% of them, it’s a scavenger lifestyle in which "past due" notices are more prevalent than Humvees.
With a slight waver in his voice, Paul a tall, lanky 6′2″ 160-pounder reaffirmed his desire for bodybuilding glory, his voice resonating more deeply as he continued to speak. He assured me that it had been his life’s dream and he would do whatever it took to make that dream materialize.
The reality of the situation though, was that I was working a sixty-hour week running a World Gym, putting in five intense workouts a week (I had my own outlandish dreams to chase), and was spending at least an hour a day on my food prep. There was only so much time and energy that I could devote and after going through this a few dozen times, I found it was best to test the convictions of my new charges before investing too much energy into them. The test was two-tiered. Both stages involved pain thresholds.
"So you’re ready to get serious?" I said, trying to disguise the smirk that was threatening to take over my face. "Lets jump into things. We’ll start with legs!" My standard intro "Trial by Fire" leg workout was simple: 1) a warm-up, 2) two sets of heavy twenty-rep Breathing Squats, 3) two supersets of Leg Extensions immediately followed with Frog Leg Presses, with 3-4 forced reps at the end of each set of presses. It wasn’t a great deal of volume but it was definitely grueling.
As I mentioned, this test was actually on two fronts. First, how well would they "hang" during the workout. This was the easy part because masculine pride will take one far into the pain zone as long as you know it’s a temporary thing. The second aspect of the test took place over the following three to four days, when the constant throbbing agony of muscles, yanked awake from years of sedentary grogginess, feel as though they have been turned inside out, sautéed in a light butter sauce and then gently diced into bite-sized cubes before being forcibly jammed back into roughly the same place they previously slumbered. This was where most starry-eyed neophytes fell off the grid.
So I was caught off guard the next day when tall, lanky Paul came slowly walking into the gym for our second appointment. He was strutting like a saddle-sore roughrider, desperately trying to keep his inner thighs from accidentally grazing against one another and sending another wave of pain through his traumatized body. This kid had some heart.
I don’t think there is a better source of bodybuilding info than the articles in the No Nonsense Newsletter.
Having earned a certain level of my respect, I felt Paul was ready for detailed guidance. We sat down and I charted out a workout split. We talked about a basic meal template and his basic supplement needs. Last, but not least, I gave him the guidance he would need to take things beyond the beginner’s level. As I handed him the short stack of info, he looked puzzled.
"Therein lie the answers to all of your questions." (Fortunately, I left off the corny-sounding "my son" from the end of the sentence.) He flipped through the pages, trying to soak it all in.
Getting a bit carried away with my mentor role, I continued on with my proselytizing. "Avoid the newsstand muscle mags, ignore Internet bodybuilding sites. This is real in-the-trenches info written by normal people that have succeeded at doing the very thing you are trying to do." I gave him the three most recent issues of Beverly International’s No Nonsense Magazine and showed him how to sign up for his own subscription. I felt Paul was well on his path.
Since then I have made the same recommendation countless times. I can honestly say I don’t think there is a better source of bodybuilding info than the articles in the No Nonsense Magazine (and its Irish twin the BodyMuscle Journal). If you are new to these publications, you will see that they are an ideal blend of inspiration, information and practical real world info. I jokingly refer to the collected issues as The Summa Hypertrophica, in reference to Thomas Aquinas’ famous religious text of a similar name.
A thorough review of all of the back issues will cause a lifechanging leap in your level of bodybuilding knowledge similar to a Masters degree in "Muscleology." The shared life experience of hundreds of successful lifters can save you years of effort. As pro fitness competitor and Beverly disciple Liz Maurice said,1 "Now I’ve been taking Beverly so long, following their plans and reading their literature, that I’m the gym guru." You can use these invaluable references to become an expert too. Here are just a small handful of the basic principles that I have learned, relearned, discovered and had reinforced through the Beverly magazines. Enjoy the recap.
KEEP YOUR TRAINING SIMPLE
The Beverly publications have always espoused hard, basic training. While there may be a number of flashy, complex training programs in the monthly muscle magazines, basic gut-busting effort is universally effective at causing growth. Aram Hamparian may have said2 it best. “Train hard, provide extra time for recovery and focus on perfect exercise form on the basic compound multi-joint movements.” J.R. McKinney expands 3 upon this, "I always use basic compound exercises year round; the fundamental movements that develop muscle mass."
The Beverly Publications were strong proponents of powerbodybuilding – mixing bodybuilding and powerlifting techniques to increase strength in basic exercises. In one issue, Greg Daniels recounts,4 "I was again reminded how much fun deadlifts, dips and military presses were and how much more powerful I felt doing multi-joint exercises versus moving a weight stack up and down via an attached cable."
"I believe in “controlled heavy training.” Shane Smith says,5 "I train with the heaviest weight I can control through the fullest range of motion." Brenda Smith (no relation) concurs,6 recommending that lifters "... maintain high intensity levels with [their] training in order to incite new muscle growth."
The very core of size and strength building involves a slow, steady increase in poundages or, as Roger Riedinger says,7 "continuous incremental improvement." Joe Fogarty echoes this philosophy when he says,8 "... trying to beat my previous best in perfect for encouraged me to get stronger every workout." Forcing the body to constantly adapt to greater poundages in basic exercises would have to be considered the number one priority. After all, this is the stimulus that sets everything else in motion.
"Believe it or not, for most people, 50% Protein, 20% Carbohydrate, and 30% Fat is optimal."
KEEP PROTEIN LEVELS HIGH
When it comes to muscle-building nutrition, there is little doubt as to the importance of protein in the diet. Roger Riedinger (in an article written with Dr. Eric Serrano9) said, "Believe it or not, for most people 50% Protein, 20% Carbohydrate and 30% Fat is optimal." While this skewing of the macronutrient rations seems somewhat ‘protein heavy’ the accounts of successful bodybuilders seems to bear out its value.
"I’ll consume 450 grams of protein divided equally seven meals, 64-65 grams every meal," says J.R. McKinney3 (competing at 225 pounds). An article on heavyweight competitor Dave Uhlman shares an almost identical recommendation."His off-season diet is very high protein, up to 500 grams a day, made possible by Beverly Muscle Provider, Mass Maker and Ultra Size. In addition to whole food and powdered protein sources, he supplements with beef liver tabs, amino acids and glutamine." High protein is also important for power athletes. Champion bodybuilder and powerlifter Todd Jackson talks about the strict eating plan his powerlifting team followed,12 "Daily food intake consisted of high protein (up to 50%), a blend of complex and fibrous carbs, and healthy fats." He goes on to say that, in addition to whole food protein and protein shakes, "Dr. Matt [team coach] had everyone base their supplement program around Ultra 40, Mass Aminos and Creatine."
In addition to providing the raw building blocks for new muscle tissue, a high protein diet encourages leanness. Aram Hamparian says,2 "The more constant and elevated you keep your protein intake, the less carb cravings you will have. You will actually begin to enjoy ‘eating clean.’ The blood sugar stabilizing effects of protein foods is a key factor in achieving shredded contest conditioning.
Almost all of the profiles involved at least two protein shakes a day, particularly in the early morning and immediately following a workout. Morning protein shakes were most often mixes of fast whey protein blends (Muscle Provider) and slower milk and egg protein sources (Ultimate Muscle Protein or Ultra Size), provided a quick, convenient healthy meal before heading out the door. Post-workout shakes were more often higher in whey protein and may have contained some carbs (depending on the goals and individual metabolic type of the lifter). These were often Muscle Provider with Mass Maker sometimes added during the off-season or gaining phases. Older articles featured earlier discontinued or upgraded proteins like (100% Egg Protein or Complete Muscle Protein) but the basic nutritional concepts, while being slightly tweaked over time, have changed remarkably little.