March 2014 7
Everyone starts somewhere. I was lucky enough to meet Lee Priest and attend a seminar with him last year. Do you think he was born with dinosaur legs, fitting of the name, Quadzilla? Do you think he was born with some of the biggest triceps on the planet? Do you think he was born a Mr Universe? No.
Just like Lee, Dorian, Ronnie, Kai, Phil, Jay, Flex, Arnold, and any other pro bodybuilder, I started off with no developed muscle. Of course we are all born with muscles. They’re part of our structure and body. However bulging, eye-catching, freakzilla type muscles take years upon years of dedication to working out, and consistent dieting.
What do I share in common with these pro’s? I was once skinny. Hold your horseshoe triceps guys – I’m not comparing myself to the likes of these pro’s. I’m not even in the same galaxy as them.
Far, far from it. However each of these pro’s at some point was skinny. Whether as a kid, a teen, or an early 20 something. They were skinny.
So was I.
When I was a kid I was overweight. This was from an abundance of gaming, staying at home watching cartoons and wrestling, and eating whatever the hell I wanted. Cereal for breakfast, that’s healthy right? You bet ya’. However I’d finish my breakfast off with a twix, drifter, kit kat or some other chocolate biscuit. It was my morning tradition. Chicken for dinner, a healthy meal right? That’s a staple for a bodybuilding diet. However…. not when you load your plate up with chips, ketchup, table salt, and bring it all together in one whopping sandwich of white bread. What could I expect other than to get fat.
Remember I said I watched wrestling? Well that is what inspired me to get off my ass, swap the chips for rice, and swap the game controller for dumbbells. Although don’t get me wrong, I still game now, and I’m 23. I’ve just finished Metal Gear Ground Zero’s (not that it takes very long to do so)!
So if I was a fat kid, how the hell did I become skinny? Well I lost weight as a teenager, quite healthily. I tidied up my diet, and began exercising. I still ate junk, what teenager doesn’t, I just didn’t over eat, and didn’t eat it all the time. I got to a ‘normal’ looking physique. What you’d expect any regular teenager to look like. The more I worked out, the more I learned about nutrition, or at least the more I thought I learned about nutrition. BY the time I was in college I was hitting the weights at home almost every day, and hammering back skinless chicken breasts, dry cans of tuna and protein shakes like they were going out of business. I went from ‘normal’ to slightly muscular, but still very skinny. Why the hell was I skinny I thought? Looking at issues of Flex magazine, I wanted the physique they had. Watching wrestling, I wanted the physique of a WWE Superstar. Where was I going wrong? Carbs.
A lot of fitness casuals shun carbs, believing them to be evil. However we NEED carbs in order to grow. I began eating properly, got a better routine and bulked all the way to 219 lbs. That was 1 lb lighter than one of my favourite wrestlers, Chris Benoit. So I went from skinny to 219 lbs of pure jacked muscle, right? Wrong.
You see this 219 was a combination of fat and muscle. Whilst bulking I lost sight of my physique, and was chasing weight on the scale, and adding weight to the bar. This was yet another learning curve for me. So what happened next?
I cut. From 219lbs, probably down to around 165 or so. That was a lot of weight to lose. I was looking more toned, but damn I lost a lot of weight. I was once again skinny, or at least I thought it.
Apparently my ‘skinny’ before pictures aren’t skinny, but to me, they are. I remember how I felt when I looked like that. I didn’t like it. I’d had enough of yo yo dieting. Mixing up routines and diets. I needed to find a consistent way to improve.
Enter 2013. I had bulked up once again from my skinny frame to yet another chubby muscular frame, weighing in at 215 lbs. 2013 is the year I saw a big difference in my training. This is the year I started to compete. So I present to you my journey from skinny, to competitive bodybuilder. I hope you enjoy it guys.
Adam Foster is the author of this article. You can get full details of Adams skinny to muscle transformation at http://www.shreddybrek.com/my-training-log/skinny-to-muscle-transformation/
I’ve been active in bodybuilding since my junior year in high school. To me, bodybuilding has always been more than how you look, how big your muscles are, or how small your waist is. To me, it’s about what can you do with those muscles? Can you run faster, can you lift heavier, are you a better athlete as a result of those muscles?
Chuck Sipes is a prime example of this. Chuck Harry Sipes was born on August 22, 1932 in Sterling, Illinois. He was the youngest of 2 sons and spent a lifetime following the bodybuilding lifestyle. Strength training transformed him from a skinny teenager to a world famous bodybuilder. In junior high school in Modesto, California, Sipes was just an average athlete. When he was 16, the coach told him that he was too small for football, so he did what any warrior would do. He started lifting weights to get bigger and stronger. Ironically, his neighbor was a man named Chuck Coker who helped 16 year old Chuck Sipes with his weight training. Chuck Coker went on to assist in establishing the Universal Gym Equipment Company.
In 1950, Chuck joined the United States Army as a paratrooper. While training at Fort Benning, Georgia, his parachute failed to open during a routine practice jump and Chuck luckily got tangled up with another trooper, before free-falling around 70 feet to the ground. He spent 4 months in Walter Reed Army Hospital, with severe head injuries. The accident apparently triggered recurring epileptic seizures and may have contributed to the fits of depression Sipes experienced later in life.
Discharged in 1952, Chuck enrolled at Modesto Junior College and was back playing football under his former high school coach, Chuck Coker. His deepest ambition, however, was to gain top honors in bodybuilding, although he preferred to handle heavy weights rather than practice posing. Chuck went on to win the 1959 IFBB “Mr. America”, the 1960 IFBB “Mr. Universe”, the 1967 NABBA “Mr. World” and the 1968 IFBB “Mr. World” titles. He reached his goal of winning a “past 40” contest by capturing the “Mr. Pacific Coast” titled at age 41.
Chuck enjoyed preaching the merits of strength training and in the 1960’s, he organized the American Bodybuilding Club, which required a one dollar fee to join. He gave exhibitions and lectures promoting fitness and recreation at schools, churches, colleges and service academies. Following his competitive bodybuilding career, he began working with the physically and mentally handicapped. A man of many talents, he painted Western landscapes and scenes featuring 19th century mountain men.
Sipes spent over 20 years working for the California Youth Authority, and the California School System, where he took troubled teenagers on week-long trips to the mountains and taught them to rely on teamwork for survival. A large majority of teenagers who came under his supervision changed their lives for the better. Chuck said, “One of my objectives was to win the kids over to Christianity, and introduce them to a more positive way of life. It may not have been the answer for all, but it was a start in the right direction.”
Chuck Sipes took his own life on February 24, 1993, at the age of 61. In 2002, he was posthumously inducted into the Joe Weider Hall Of Fame. Chuck was married with kids.
Excerpt from “Legends Of The Iron Game”
As an aspiring bodybuilder, I’ve spent years watching video clips on youtube, dvd’s and TV of bodybuilders. Just like anyone who aspires to be successful in life, we all have role models. People who have ‘been there, done that’. People who are at the top of the game. People who are successful in our chosen field.
Journalists, footballers, actors, singers, business people all should aspire to reach the levels of success that the top performers in their industry have achieved. It’s not often however that we think we’ll get to meet our idols, role models or stars.
Attending the Body Power expo in 2013 I was fortunate enough to meet a number of my favourite bodybuilders and youtube personalities. The likes of Dorian Yates, Flex Lewis, Neil Hill and Rich Pianna were all guys that I got the opportunity to meet with. However in a fitness and sports supplement convention, I wasn’t able to get the chance to spend a great deal of time with any of these guys.
One of my favourite bodybuilders where I first started lifting as a Teen was Lee Priest. Famously known as the blonde myth, also the title of one of his workout dvd’s, is renown for his massive, horse shoe triceps. Once an IFBB pro, Lee Priest was banned from the organisation, and took a long sabbatical from competing. He made his return last year under the NABBA federation, the same federation I competed in last year, winning the coveted Mr Universe title.
To call his physique impressive would be an understatement. However pictures of a person, and seeing them live are 2 different things. I competed, and placed 3rd, in the Open Mr & Miss British Isle competition last year, hosted by Eddy Ellwood. Eddy is a 5 time Mr Universe, and NABBA representative. Not only was he able to host this independent bodybuilding show, he also secured Lee Priest to guest pose at the show. What an honour it was for me to not only compete, but to also place in a show, in which Lee Priest was guest posing.
The following night Lee Priest hosted a bodybuilding seminar at Eddy’s gym, which is where I train, Xtreme Fitness. Training under Eddy and getting into bodybuilding was the main reason I began my own bodybuilding blog, http://www.shreddybrek.com.
The seminar with Lee was more of a candid chat, lasting about 2 hours. For a guy who is so immensely intimidating (face tattoo’s, slabs of of muscle and just a general bad ass look), Lee was one of the friendliest and most approachable people within the fitness industry that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
What shocked me is how much of a family man he is. To compete in the Mr Universe Lee had toured in the UK for around 3 weeks, doing guest posing spots and seminars all around the country. During the seminar he spoke about how he was waiting to get home to his girlfriend and kids, and resume family life. A far cry from the impression I had of him, from appearance alone. Rather than spending the full time talking about training, it was interesting to hear more about his personal life and things outside of the gym. We often see bodybuilders, athletes or sports stars are 1 dimensional characters. All we see them do is perform in their sport, so its hard to understand there is more to their life. Hearing about Lee’s family life, hobbies, and love of racing made for a very interesting chat.
Of course as entertaining as it was listening to Lee’s life stories and experiences, it was equally as educating learning about his philosophy to supplementation and training. He echoed my personal thoughts that many supplement companies are branding poor quality supplements in fancy packaging and selling them for a higher price than they should be. To be honest, this is one of the reason I established http://cheapproteindiscountcodes.co.uk, a site that allows us to get cheap supplements using protein discount codes. It was refreshing to hear that when he was under the IFBB he would often come into dispute with his sponsors if he did not feel their supplements worked for him. Rather than ‘selling out’ and promoting their message, he would flat out refuse to say a crappy supplement was good. The sign of an honest athlete, and not a cowboy looking to make a quick buck.
Not only are Lee’s Triceps impressive, his legs are just outright ridiculous. Those tree trunks are absolutely huge. His leg workout, which involves sets of anywhere up to 100 reps, was definitely an eye opener and shocker for me to hear. It’s not something I’ve tried, but it is something I’d like to give a shot at some point.
Lee’s Seminar at Xtreme Fitness was the last stop on his UK tour before returning home to Australia. I asked him if he would be competing in this years Mr Universe, and at the time he said he wasn’t sure. Regardless of if he does compete in this years Mr Universe, there is no doubt that Lee remains one of the worlds best bodybuilders, and role models for young lifters.
Bench pressing will always be a dominant exercise.
Walk into any gym and you’ll see and hear bodybuilders, powerlifters and weekend warriors horizontal on the bench grunting and groaning for that extra rep. Sure, a big bench will build a big chest. A big bench will also wreck your shoulders and cause tears if not done correctly.
I’ve been in the gym when that horrible popping sound occurs and stops everyone in the gym immediately. A pec tear. My former training partner, Mike Scarcella was benching 5 plates on just another chest day when it happened. Luckily there was a medical doctor in the gym working out who was able to apply immediate care (ice) until Mike could get to the emergency room.
Below is a specific routine that you can begin using immediately to safely increase your bench press in a month or two. Some of the tips below may enable you to immediately increase your bench press with just a slight adjustment to your form. Check it out!
TRAIN FLAT BENCH PRESS TWICE A WEEK
- Flat bench dumbbell press. 3 warm up sets using a progressively heavier weight followed by 3 sets of 6-8 reps. Use the same weight on all 3 working sets that allow you to get 6-8 reps. If you can’t get the reps, the weight is too heavy. If you get more than 6-8 reps, increase the weight.
- Close grip bench press. 2 x 8 reps. You’re building triceps strength with this one so you want to feel the triceps doing most of the work. Use a close grip so that your thumbs are right against your outer pecs. Start with 60% of your maximum bench press weight and shoot for 8 reps. So if you bench press 300, use 180lbs for 2 sets of 8. You’ll quickly learn the form and will begin to add weight fast on this exercise.
- Bench Shrug x 2 sets. Start with the same weight as a regular 10 rep bench press set and build up over several weeks and reduce the reps to 6 over time (while increasing the weight). The bench shrug is performed by raising and lowering the weight WITHOUT bending the arms. The idea is to focus on scapula rotation while contracting the pecs. This strengthens the shoulder girdle and develops the “shoulder roll” used by most great benchers. Lower the bar with straight arms, by pulling the shoulders down and in toward the bench and crunching the scapula together. Use a spotter or safety bars as the balance can be a little unusual at first.
- Load the bar with 90% of the weight that you can do for 10 reps. So if you can bench 225lbs for 10 reps, use 90% of that or 202.5lbs. Set your grip one finger WIDER than normal. A half inch or so. Bench press this weight (202.5lbs) for 8-10 reps over the next few weeks until you can progress to 225lbs and get 10 reps using this wider grip. Once you can do reps of 10 with 225lbs, move your hands (grip) out again. Another half inch or so. Ultimately, you’re trying to have your chest, shoulders and triceps share the load equally. Touch the bar at the highest point on your chest and make sure that your elbows are angled in towards your ribcage. Most of us flare our elbows OUT but we want to become stronger benchers so we’re going to keep the elbows tucked in for better leverage. Every time you move your grip out wider, do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps. Stay with each new grip for a couple of weeks or more until you find the best grip. I wouldn’t do more than 3 new grips as you don’t want to take your triceps out of the exercise completely.
- Incline bench DB press x 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps (alternate with weighted bar dips with elbows 45 degrees out from the chest.
On either day 1 or day 2, lower the bar slowly during the barbell bench press, pause for 3 seconds and explode it up. You want to get into the habit of using this driving, explosive style so that on your max attempt day,you can shoot up a bigger bench press.
Questions? Let me know.
For more great ways to get stronger, check out “Powerlifting Basics, Texas-Style” by Paul Kelso
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