View Full Version : New Polquin Article!

12-05-2007, 12:24 AM
Fine Article. Lots of good stuff.

Questions of Strength: December
by Charles Poliquin

Walk the Plank

Q: Many coaches put plank exercises for "core work" into almost every program they write. Is this a good exercise?

A: It's a good exercise if you're an eleven-year-old stamp collector and you don't have a good work station. People in the know recommend this position if you're having sex, and only then if you can exceed the one-repetition mark. It's actually one of the core exercises on www.bitethepillow.com.

Seriously, the plank is something that you do in first grade phys ed. Maybe the side plank is okay for someone who's clinically obese and can't even get out of bed, but I never put it in my programs. It certainly doesn't have value for the elite training population.

The plank is just too basic. It's like power snatching with a broomstick. How long would you have to do that before it made you strong?

For "core work" I recommend what I always recommend: squats, deadlifts, and the Olympic lifts.

High Reps for Big Legs?

Q: Back in the day, in the bodybuilding world at least, it was said that you need higher reps for lower body training and lower reps for upper body training. After a period of "go heavy or go home" it seems that high reps (15 to 25) for leg exercises is back in vogue with some bodybuilding gurus. Is this the best way to train the lower body?

A: Well, when it comes to quadriceps, they respond to a much greater variation in reps.

The biggest quads I've ever seen on any member of the human species belonged to a female speed skater on the US team. She made Tom Platz's legs look like coach Mike Boyle's. (Well, not that skinny.)

To build big quads you have to use protocols that produce a lot of lactate, and you have to use heavy-load protocols. So this girl trained using anywhere from singles to sets of 50 reps.

So, this statement about higher reps is true for quads, but certainly not for hamstrings. It's also true for the erector spinae. If you want big quads, vary your reps a lot. I think that sets consisting of two minutes of continuous tension are actually very good for quad growth. If you want big hamstrings however, you'll do best with less than eight reps.

That being said, you can't make the blanket statement that "everyone trains legs too heavy." Much depends on your fiber makeup. Elite weightlifters only do 2.2 reps on average per year and they have huge quads.

But if your legs aren't growing on sets of eight and you came to me as a client, for sure I'd tell you to try sets of 50. It all comes back to this: The training protocol is only as good as the time it takes you to adapt to it. If you haven't grown in a while, vary the method.

If you're a bodybuilder who hasn't grown since Paris Hilton read a book (or, uh, colored one) then train like a powerlifter. And if a powerlifter hasn't grown, he can do timed sets like a speedskater.

What you have to do is look at evidence based on non-drugged athletes, then look at the guys with the biggest quads. In sport, these are skiers and speed skaters. What do they have in common? They train with a huge variety of reps and training velocities.

Lastly, let's keep one thing in mind when it comes to these "bodybuilding gurus." Thirteen guys out of the top twenty bodybuilders at the Olympia don't have the myostatin gene that limits muscle growth. They could whack off and grow!

The Safe 1RM

Q: Is there a safe and accurate way of estimating your one-rep max without actually doing one?

A: There have been quite a few studies done on this. The most simple way to do it is to find your 3RM (three-rep max) and add 10%. This works for 70% of the people out there — those with normal fiber type distribution.

There are people out there of course with abnormal fiber type distribution. Let's say Johnny Fast-Twitch can bench 300 for three reps. But he's so neurologically efficient that he only does three reps at 80% of max. So his real one-rep max is 375, not 330.

Now let's say his cousin can do 300 for three reps too, but he has normal fiber type distribution. His one-rep max is 330 (300 pounds plus 10%.)

There are people whose 3RM is 97% of their max and people whose 3RM is 80% of their max. But for most people, the 3RM plus 10% formula is a good rule of thumb for estimating 1RM.

And let me add this: If you're not a competitive powerlifter, who gives a rat's ass? Just find your best 3RM so you'll have a gauge of your strength at that point in time. A set of three won't expose the average guy to as high of an injury risk, although I do think the injury risk is overrated when it comes to max lifts. It's all just a matter of warming up properly. I typically like 6-8 sets in my warm-ups.

A progression for the testing of primary lifts for the first attempt would look like this.

4 at estimated 40%, rest 10 seconds

4 at estimated 40%, rest 10 seconds

3 at estimated 60%, rest 30 seconds

2 at estimated 75%, rest 60 seconds

1 at estimated 80%, rest 120 seconds

1 at estimated 85%, rest 120 seconds

1 at estimated 90%, rest 180 seconds

1 at estimated 95%, rest 240 seconds

1 at estimated 100%, rest 240 seconds

Rep Counting and Self-Talk

Q: I read somewhere that you have your athletes count reps backward instead of upward. Is that true?

A: That's correct. This allows you to stay focused on the goal while also being focused on the process.

Let's say I want you to get your best ever 5 reps on a lift. A lot of guys will do one rep and think, "Expletive-of-choice-that-rhymes-with-fire-truck, will I ever make it to five?" By three reps they're thinking how heavy it is and they start doing all this negative self-talk. But if they start at 5 and count down, then the set is going to be over — five, four, three, two, one — and they stay focused.

By the way, you'll find that champions have very positive self-talk. Ronnie Coleman talks to himself the whole time he trains, and it's very positive. I've heard one of my clients even talk to imaginary audiences. He says, "You guys think I can't do it, then watch this" and he goes and does a raw double with 550 in the bench. Same guy easily curls weights that would impress people in presses. He says he imagines strippers waving at him and cheering him on. Hey, whatever works for you.

The most important things said to us are said to us by ourselves. So, only about 10% of the population responds positively to being called names by their training partners. They have the "I'll prove you wrong" mentality. This has actually been studied.

Most people however aren't motivated by this at all. If you really want to motivate your training partner, stick to "You can do it. Let's go!" not horrific negative putdowns such as "You lift like a Greenpeace card-carrying vegetarian!" or "I've seen bigger arms on a chair, you Ellington Darden fan!"

Bad-Ass Beta Alanine

Q: There's a lot of hoopla out there concerning the new supplement Beta Alanine. Is this stuff worth it?

A: I think Beta Alanine is great. It allows you to do more reps. I think it's most beneficial when you work in the 4-5RM range. If you're the type of guy who does ten sets of three (10 x 3), then it'll allow you to get that up to tens sets of four or five (10 x 4-5).

I've used it a lot in the last six months and my athletes are making much faster progress, especially at high doses. Up the dose until you get tingly, then back down a little. I think people should take 10 grams of it a day. Taking 3 grams a day is just far too small of a dose. That dose is like trying to fart against a hurricane.

60 Minute Workouts: Still Ideal?

Q: With all the new info and supplements we have now for peri-workout nutrition, does the old rule about "never train over 60 minutes" still apply?

A: Yes, it does. I was using peri-workout nutrition before most post-workout drink experts got their first G.I. Joe. Peri-workout nutrition allows you to make faster progress, but mentally, if you can train longer than an hour then you're really not putting any effort into it.

You have to be able to bust your ass, and most people don't. They have their iPods on, they're reading the paper between sets, or they're chatting up the girl with the biggest saline-enhanced front porch.

When I worked with the national bobsleigh team, there were some team members who didn't think they could get a good workout in under an hour. So I took them downstairs to train at the Olympic Training Center. Fifty-two minutes later they couldn't walk up the stairs. They wanted elevators installed! I'd changed their minds completely.

I'll challenge anyone to train with me for an hour. I'll put them in a wheelchair. And I'm not just talking about lactate training; I'll do it with maximal weights, too.

Look at guys who are really, really strong using full range. That means no six-inch bench presses where the bar bounces off a trans-fat laden gut. The strongest of the bunch, the good Olympic lifters, still train under an hour. Now, they may train several times per day, but they'll never exceed an hour.

Remember, T-cells drop after 50 minutes. The immune system is taking a beating. Use peri-workout nutrition, but still keep the workout at an hour or under. Get in, get it done, get out.

"I Wanna Look All Swole"

Q: I look pretty muscular in the gym, but once the pump is gone I shrink like crazy. Why is that? What's my problem?

A: The problem is you're a skinny dweeb. Go home and hide behind your mom's skirt.

Look, if you have a 19 inch arm when it's cold and flexed, your relaxed arm is 17.5 inches. It looks way better than the guy with the eleven-teen inch arm that goes up to 12.5 when he's pumped.

But don't worry, I made the same observation when I was a kid. I believed (falsely) that I looked good when I lifted, but ten minutes later I looked like Woody Allen. Why? Because I was built like Woody Allen! During those days, I abstained from drinking V8 because I'd often be mistaken for a thermometer. When I got up to a body weight of 214, that wasn't a problem.

Big Arms, Big Physique

Q: Is it true you have to gain a bunch of muscular body weight overall in order to get big arms?

A: Typically, you have to gain 15 pounds of overall body weight to add an inch to your upper arm measurements. Now, if you want to go from 21 to 22-inch arms, which is enormous, it'll be more like a 25 pound gain.

Weider writers claimed that Arnold used to have a 22 inch arm COLD. Arthur Jones said they were full of shit. Arthur Jones was right: The Weider camp was full of shit. For Arnold to have a legitimate 22 inch arm, he would've had to weigh 308.

If you're going from a 14 inch arm to 16, then 30 pounds will do it. But going from 18 to 20 inches will require more like a 50 pound gain.

Editor's Note: For more on this topic, see Charles's article, The Truth About Bodybuilding Arm Measurements.

Now, let's say that starting tomorrow all you did was arms. There's something — and I think it has to do with acupuncture meridians — that would cause your arms to stop growing until you restore balance. So in other words, if you don't put four to five inches on your thighs, then your arms will stop growing.

Bodybuilder Troy Alves has huge arms. We were talking about this one day and he said he couldn't get his arms to grow anymore until he started training his legs.

And remember, you have far more anabolic output from training legs than training arms. So, all these people who don't like split routines are retarded. If I train arms on Monday then Tuesday I train legs, my leg workout will actually make my arms grow. The next session I do my chest and back, which will help my legs and my arms grow. The point is that the anabolic response you get is systemic.

If your arms haven't grown since Hilary Clinton smiled, then don't train them for four months. Concentrate instead on chest and back work. You may lose half an inch on your arms, but once you go back to arm training your arms will grow right away and surpassyour previous arm size.

In my years of putting size on, I found that the best way to grow arms was to NOT train arms directly for four months out of the year. I still did chins and dips of course, but no direct arm exercises.

Poliquin's Power Foods

Q: TC wrote a great article about what he considers Power Foods. What are yours?

A: I like buffalo. It's rich in omega-3. All wild meats are good actually.

Go to www.eatwild.com and put in your zip code to find local sources. I recommend a diet high in meats, but you must be strict about the quality.

I really like macadamia nuts, as they help build up acetylcholine levels. Blueberries are one of the best foods for the brain and they're rich in anti-oxidants. I recommend all thin-skinned berries actually. Pomegranate juice also ranks high on the list because of its heart-healthy benefits.

I like greens-type drinks because they alkalize the body. Figs are a great post-workout food; they're full of minerals, especially if you're Italian. Sweet potatoes are great, too.

Finally, I'll recommend a book I really like on the topic: The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden. Check it out.

12-12-2007, 01:35 AM
Bump, nobody read this?

12-17-2007, 06:46 PM
Haha I read his articles as soon as they come out on T-nation.
He is awesome. I would love to see him get in an argument with someone like a high school gym teacher. He would blow their mind. I'm thinking of attending one of his seminars once I have enough money for it.

12-17-2007, 06:47 PM
By the way if you are looking for a good place to get beta-alanine, go to superiornutraceuticals.com.

12-25-2007, 03:40 PM
This article is old I believe, but interesting. Written by a guy that attended a Poliquin seminar.


If over 10% body fat for a man, or over 15-20% for a woman, you are fat.

The stronger your immune system, the easier it is to gain muscle and lose fat.

The more insulin you produce, the faster you age.

The best predictor of lifespan is muscle mass and strength


Omega 3 Fatty Acids from pharmaceutical grade fish oils are the most valuable supplement you can take. The subject should take 15g/day for two weeks if deficient, then reduce the dosage to 5g/day indefinitely after that. Fish oils will help burn fat and prevent fat gain. They improve serotonin levels (mood), make it easier to move nutrients in and out of cell walls, reduce joint inflammation, decrease the amount of sugar your body will absorb, improves blood pressure and decrease insulin output when taken with a meal.

You should take it throughout the day and rotate your source of EFA’s every 10 days. Krill Oil is the best source as it also eliminates PMS and you don’t need high doses of this type of oil.

Fat people should not consume carbs post-workout. The best Post workout drink for a 200lb overweight man is: Whey Isolate 60g + Glutamine 20-80g + Glycine 20g. This will replenish glycogen while preventing fat gain.

Licorice Root Cream can be rubbed on the abdominal as it will aid in burning fat from the stomach. The trade name is called Glycgel.

Adaptogens such as Red Korean Ginseng can help you recuperate from stress and tough workouts. Rhodiola Rosea is a very powerful adaptogen; take it when you need energy. It is a Cortisol Modulator, meaning that if your cortisol is too low it will help you raise it and if too high, it will help you lower it. Take only 1 tab per day, as it is very potent. Stevia is a natural sweetener and a great adrenal recovery aid. Cold Fx is also a surprisingly good product. It is good for adrenaline glands, fat loss, decreasing insulin output, and regenerates the pancreas.

To help men raise testosterone Charles recommends the following. Zinc is low in all active men and plays an important role in test production. Zinc arginic is best, no more than 30mg/day. Holy Basil also helps raise testosterone.

As for estrogen, DIM is a strong anti-estrogen that specifically targets the bad estrogens caused by phyto-estrogens in our environment.

R-ALA is anabolic and promotes fat burning, only the R for is good, the S form of ALA is counter productive. It is an anti-oxidant that also promotes glucose transport into muscle cells. As well it Increases the metabolic rate and decreases insulin output.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a healthy stimulant; it also improves memory and is anti-aging for the brain. It too increases insulin sensitivity.

Charles recommends that one uses a good multi-vitamin when attempting to lose fat as fat loss releases toxins that are stored in your fat and your body will need all the vitamins and minerals it can get to fight these toxins.

Estrogen “16” is a bad form of estrogen in our bodies that we want to eliminate, supplements that combat estrogen “16” are Broccoli extract, DIM and Green Tea

Taurine is an amino acid that increases insulin sensitivity, increases cell communication, and increase carb metabolism.

Magnesium Chelates are the key to preventing diabetes; everyone who is active is deficient in it, and it is this deficiency that creates diabetes. Magnesium also increases insulin sensitivity. One should Rotate the types of Mag, just make sure they all end in “ate”. Take it after 4:00pm, as it will improve your sleep.

All stimulants raise cortisol, which is bad so use them sensibly. As for the fat burning supplement ephedrine, you do not need much ephedrine (8mg) to stimulate fat burning.

If asparagus makes your urine smell you are deficient in Vitamin B9 and B12. Taking these B vitamins will help prevent Alzheimer’s


High intensity interval training burns more calories overall than long slow cardio. The bulk of these calories are burned post exercise. Intervals should consist of 40 sec – 2 min on, and 1 minute off. These sessions should last a max of 42 minutes total including warm-up. The bad news is that the workouts must be very intense, as the subject must get to nausea in order to produce enough lactic acid. Luckily 2 sessions per week is all that is needed to lose fat at a noticeable rate. The catch is that velocity without resistance is useless, so going really fast is not the answer. Working really hard against resistance is the solution.

Continuous aerobic work (long jogs) raises cortisol, which in turn makes you fatter in the long run. So don’t bother doing it unless it is sport specific training.

For strength training, vary the program every 25 days; everything works, but only for a short time. Vary the exercises often so you overload the muscles at different points. You must surprise the muscles with something new in order to force it to adapt. Other possible changes include rest time, muscle grouping, tempo, etc.


Approximately 75% of people are carb intolerant and should not be eating grains; the grains are getting people fat. The first step is to get the Omega 3’s in balance by taking hi-quality fish oils. You must eat protein with every meal even breakfast. A meat and nut breakfast will make you leaner even if you do not change the rest of your diet. It is best if you rotate the meat each breakfast. Eat 6-7 meals per day with protein plus smart fats in every meal.

A long-term low carbohydrate diet is the solution for fat people even after they have lost the fat. To begin the diet, eat only meat, fish, eggs, cheese and vegetables (50g of carbs per day or less). Follow this diet for 14 days then have a cheat day, eat whatever you want for the entire day. Return to the ultra low carb diet and have a cheat meal (one sitting) every 4th or 5th day.

Once you are starting to lean out you can add berries to the diet. They are strong antioxidants and low glycemic.

As you get leaner still you can introduce the Orange family of fruits.

As you get leaner again you can add Plums, nectarines, peaches and apples.

Then grapes and bananas

Then the root vegetables such as yams, and sweet potatoes

Then rice, the darker the better

The last food to add is grains, and it should never be added for those that are carb intolerant. (If eating carbs made you fat)

A no or low gluten diet is a good thing, it interferes with reaction time.

Stick with this diet 80% of the time and you will do fine and not stressed out by it. Eat more vegetables.

Do not eat Peanut Butter, even the natural kind; it contains a mould that has phyto-estrogens in it.

Fructose syrup is the most fattening food we know of and it ages you; avoid it at all costs.

Have your cheat meal late in the day instead of early when you are likely to keep eating bad the rest of the day. The best cheat meals have some nutritional value

Fatty foods have a reputation for causing bad health but it is Carbs that raise cholesterol and bad blood lipids

12-25-2007, 03:43 PM
The peanut butter thing is the most interesting to me. In the past I have eaten a jar of peanut butter in a day. If you look up peanut butter mould on google, you'll find it is a very real thing, and the effects of it go beyond just the phyto-estrogens. Some are claiming it is carcinogenic.

12-27-2007, 05:32 PM
Originally posted by TVG
The peanut butter thing is the most interesting to me. In the past I have eaten a jar of peanut butter in a day. If you look up peanut butter mould on google, you'll find it is a very real thing, and the effects of it go beyond just the phyto-estrogens. Some are claiming it is carcinogenic.

yeah Peanut butter is not a good thing.