Nineteen years of lifting weights, nine years of competing, and over a dozen bodybuilding titles made me complacent and lazy in my training. I’d lost my passion for serious hard-core training somewhere in the deep dark corners of the gym (in my case, my garage). In other words, there was no fire in my belly for the hard-core gut busting, toilet hugging, star seeing workouts that had given me bodybuilding success!
The fire was reignited as I was working the Beverly International booth at the Arnold Classic in March of this year. No, it wasn’t the mammoth bodies walking around in Columbus that weekend that motivated me. It was hanging out with the Beverly International group that was so inspirational. We worked the booth during the day and talked bodybuilding, training, dieting, etc into the wee hours at night.
I returned from the Arnold and devised my plan of attack. I rearranged my workouts to better coincide with my boys’ sports activities and family obligations and I reevaluated and revised my diet. My two boys have never seen me compete and my girls are in high school (and now think this bodybuilding stuff is cool). So I wanted to make sure I’d be my best and not disappoint them! My mind was crystal clear; it was time to step back into battle.
The great martial artist Bruce Lee said, “Absorb what is useful; disregard what is useless and create what is essentially your own.” This adage is as valuable for bodybuilders as it is martial artists. Why wouldn’t a strength athlete take the best training ideas, strategies and protocols from the powerlifting, powerbuilding, and bodybuilding worlds to build an awesome training program? Why not re-visit some of the training tips, techniques, and programs from the boys of the golden era like Dave Draper and Bill Pearl and put those strategies into the training blender and drink up? Well, that’s just what I did. I completed my homework and aced the class!
In general, I don’t like to train more than 45 minutes or so at any given time, but since I still train in my garage I can train more often. I’ve been known to often train two, and sometimes even three times a day. I don’t buy into the training ideology of training each body part just once a week, at least not for the natural athlete! We all know there are a lot of factors that go into over training such as frequency of training, sets, reps, diet, supplementation, etc, and I know there are several of you out there who only train each body part once a week, if it works for you, keep it up. All I can tell you is what I’ve done and how it worked for me. If your body is saturated with the right amount of nutrients, you can hit major muscle groups every 72 hours and smaller ones even more. I was six or seven weeks out from the Midwest States when Roger told me my biceps development could improve, who wants to compete or for that matter, just walk around with weak biceps? Not me. I started training biceps every other day for the next six weeks AND they grew! I didn’t measure them but they definitely got bigger even on a strict precontest diet. Granted, the 32 Muscle Synergy I took each day helped me achieve those results, attribute it to whatever you like, I got some serious growth out of it!
My Three-Phase Training Approach
My goal was to come out of a four-year semi-retirement from bodybuilding in March and achieve my best ever size, shape, and over all condition by early November. I broke my training plan into three phases. Phase (I) was basically a powerlifting approach but I kept bodybuilding concepts in mind. In Phase (II) I took a bodybuilding approach to training but kept some of the powerlifting concepts in mind, and Phase (III) was a pure bodybuilding approach – both mind and body. I started phase one of my three-phase training approach as soon as I returned home from the Arnold.
In Phase (I) I trained six days a week (four hard workouts and two easier ones). I used a lot of power movements and focused on increasing the weights on each exercise as the weeks went by. However, no matter how heavy the weight got, I still kept a mind to muscle link and made sure the right muscle was being worked. I also included a few bodybuilding type exercises with slightly higher reps yet still went pretty heavy. Reps were explosive. Rest between sets was longer than normal. I wanted to lift as heavy as possible and rested as long between sets as necessary to be fully recovered for the next one. I normally performed each Phase (I) workout in one session, but there were times when I trained chest at noon and saved the shoulders and triceps for an evening workout.
Phase (II) I switched to more training sessions and mostly bodybuilding exercises but I focused on lifting very heavy. I kept the reps fairly low but not as low as in Phase (I). Reps were still performed in an explosive manner.
Phase (III) was almost all bodybuilding movements with higher reps than in the previous phases. During these sessions I really concentrated on contracting and squeezing the muscle and not so much on the amount of weight. Pace was a little quicker and attention to detail was foremost. In addition Phase (III) training often consisted of two or three sessions per day.
In the remainder of this article I’ll explain my Phase (I) training program to get you started. I’ll explain the other phases in subsequent articles and lead you step-by-step down the same path I followed to achieve my best ever condition.
PHASE (I) Training
- Day 1 – Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
- Barbell Bench Press – 8 sets of 3 reps. I wrap my thumbs around the bar and tuck in my elbows (like a power lifter). I use a lot of shoulders and triceps in the movement and work up to heavy poundages. On my heavy days I’ll go up to 90 percent of my max for sets of three. If I’m successful, I’ll increase the weight next session.
- Incline DB press – 3x10
- Pec Dec – warm-up, then 2x10
- Bradford Press – 3 sets of 6 reps. This is a hybrid exercise performed with a barbell. Simply do a military press and a behind the neck press in the same set, one rep front press, the next rep behind the neck. Don’t lock out; the bar should just barely clear your head.
- Tricep Pushdowns – 3x10
- JM Press – 3 sets of 5 reps. You do this one like a close grip bench press. Index fingers about nine inches apart. Lower the bar higher up on the chest than a traditional close grip bench and focus on the triceps. You don’t need to go all the way down to the chest, stop when you start to feel the chest contract and simply push or should I say squeeze the weight back up using all triceps.
- Lying Dumbbell Extension – 3 sets of 10 reps. I perform this exercise using a dumbbell in each hand, lowering the dumbbells to the shoulder and then I continue to allow them to roll back and down. This really stimulates the elbow extensors (inner portion of the triceps). The more developed the elbow extensors are, the bigger your bench press will be, the extensors are where big benches come from!
Day 2 Back/Legs
This day combined a very intense back workout with some light leg work.
Deadlifts – 6 sets of 2 to 5 reps. Varying grips and stances, sometimes sumo style and other times traditional. I start with 5 reps and by the time I got to the 6th set I’m doing heavy doubles.
Barbell Rows – warm-up then 3 sets of 6 reps as heavy as possible (you can use a looser style to lift a little heavier than usual, but still focus on the lats and mid back – not your lower back.)
T-bar Rows – 3 sets of 8 reps as heavy as possible. Remember I train in my garage and don’t have a T-bar so here’s how I do it. I use a regular barbell, weights on both sides. I put the stationary end on top of a baseball base (to keep it from digging into the floor) and grab the other end with a special handle I made. (see photo). Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Leg extensions – 4 sets of 15- 20 reps. Squeezing the weight on both the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (raising) portions of the movement, really just going for a pump on this one.
Rear Lying Dumbbell Raises – 3 x 10. I like combining rear delts work with back.
Reverse Hyperextensions – 4 x 10 as heavy as I could go. I do this one on a special Louie Simmons machine that I’m lucky enough to have. You could use a glute-ham machine or even regular hyperextensions with weights and focus on glutes and hams.
Day 3 – Bicep, Calves, Abs
This is a pretty easy day. Nothing too intense.
Straight barbell curl – warm-up, then 3x6 as heavy as possible using fairly good form but not perfect.
Preacher EZ Bar curls – 2x10
Dumbbell Hammer curl – 2x10
Cable crunches for abs – 3x20.
Standing Calf raise – 3x20
Day 4 Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
Basically the same set and rep scheme as day one, just different exercises.
Incline Barbell – 8x3
Flat Dumbbell Press – 3x10
Flat Dumbbell Flyes – 2x10
Side Lateral Raises – Up and down the rack. 8 Reps each, I always started the set with 20 pound dumbbells and continue up the rack, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70. THEN back down. I do 8 reps at each weight, good form when the weights are low, but as I continue up the rack, the reps become less and less strict and the range of motion very limited. But the partial reps with the 60’s and 70’s create an unbelievable burn and I still think I get some growth stimulus from them. Reps were performed in a fast manner. Only 1 set is needed!
Weighted Dips – 3 sets of 5 to 10 reps. Add weight each set.
Skull Crushers – 3x10
One-Dumbbell Overhead Extension – 3 x 10
Day 5 – OFF
Day 6 – Back/LegsThis is a heavy leg and light back day.
Squats – 6 sets of 3 to 6 reps. Using a wide stance and going to parallel.
Leg Press – 3x10 Close stance.
Hack Squat 3x8
Lying Leg Curls – 4x6
Lat Pulldowns to front – 3x15
Seated Pulley Rows – 3x10
Day 6 – Biceps, Calves, Abs
Again, not too intense, I went heavy but focused more on getting a good pump.
Dumbbell Incline Curls – 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
Barbell Reverse Curls – 3x10
Seated Calf Raise – 3x20
Cable Crunches – 3x20
Day 7 – Cycle starts over
As you can see I had four pretty intense days, two easy (bi’s, abs, and calves) days, with only one day completely off. I got very strong on this program. This training program wasn’t nearly as hard-core as my Phase (II) and (III) training, but it definitely served its purpose. It got me into a training groove and got my poundages back to where they needed to be. Because of my Phase (I) program I could use heavier poundages as I transitioned into the Phase (II) and (III) programs ultimately coming into my show bigger and harder than ever.
Phase (I) NutritionYou can have the best training program, the best workout facility and the best trainer in the world but without proper nutrition and supplementation it’s all pointless. If you don’t have quality protein in your diet and amino’s in your bloodstream at all times, then you are absolutely wasting your time if you’re trying to build lean muscle tissue.
I always take Ultra 40’s and Mass Aminos throughout the day to ensure I have a steady supply of amino acids available for muscle growth. I’m a firm believer that anyone who wants to gain serious muscle mass needs at least 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, and for me it’s 2 grams! You simply cannot beat or dispute the fact that the Ultra 40 and Mass Amino combination is the best there is if you want to build massive amounts of muscle naturally.
I took two Ultra Size or Ultimate Muscle Protein shakes every day during Phase (I) – not when I thought about it, but every single day. Consistency Counts! I also maximized my potential for growth by taking four scoops of Mass Maker and one scoop of Muscle Provider after every workout. As summer approached, my diet, supplements, and training changed.
I’ll get into this in the next issue of the No Nonsense Newsletter. Remember, do your homework. Take what is useful "to you", sift out what you don’t want or need, form your own ideas, and then formulate your own plan and GO AFTER YOUR GOALS WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE!
- Profile at a Glance
- Name: Jeff Williamson
- Age: 39
- Occupation: QA/RA Engineer
- Education: Bachelor of Science in Information Systems, Associates in Electrical Engineering, Masters Certificate in Regulatory Affairs.
- Family-Wife: Linda (age unknown). Children: Brittany (19), Krista (17), Chassi (16), Alicia (16), Seth (9), Brett (7).
- Current Residence: Batesville,Indiana.
- Gym: I train at home in my garage. The garage is a 24 X 48 finished pole barn with central air/heat. I have a stereo system set up in the garage along with a few mirrors. It has a kind of hardcore feel. Nothing fancy, the floor is concrete with baseball/softball bases used for mats. They are thickly padded and absorb the impact of the weight very well. I have trained alone at home since “97”. I have dumbbells up to 150lbs. Twenty-two 45-pound plates and several 35, 25, 10, 5, and 2.5 pound plates. I have a power rack, T-bar row, reverse hyperextension, chin/dip stand unit, leg press, incline bench, seated pulley row, and hack squat. The following are “ALL PLATE LOADED TYPE MACHINES”: standing calf raise, seated calf raise, high pulldown/pushdown machine, leg extension, and leg curl.
- Height: 5′ 10″
- Off Season Weight: 225 lbs; off season bodyfat: about 13% at the worst
- Contest Weight: 188 lbs
- Favorite Cheat Food: Cheesecake (Penn Station doesn’t count, that’s an off-season staple)
- Most Inspiring Bodybuilder: Milos Sarcev
- Most Inspiring Book: Winning Every Day, Lou Holtz
- Favorite Band or CD: Aerosmith
- Other Interests or interesting stuff: I have been an avid motorcycle enthusiast for years. I currently have a ZX10R Kawasaki Ninja. I am involved with coaching my son’s football, baseball, and basketball teams.
Volume 11 issue 3
- Shellie Harshberger
Competing in Figure: A Gateway to Health and Happiness.
- Christina Comparato
Math Teacher to Natural Pro Bodybuilder
- Tim Camilli PART 2: "8 lbs Bigger and 10 X’s leaner"