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Master Training for Master Athletes - Part 2


Last article we covered some of the basic concepts we consider when training the master athlete and weekend warrior. This issue will get personal and specific. We will cover my own personal journey to a better health profile, a loss of 40 pounds of fat and the USA Judo Master’s Nationals. We will talk about the issues that face all of us trying to stay young – scheduling and time management, travel, training, recovery, supplements, steroids, and the most important thing – keeping it REAL!

Let’s first start my giving you a history profile. Many people have called me a freak because of some of the exercises they have seen me do in demos or my videos. Like everything else – there is lots of smoke and mirrors in these exercises. What I mean by that is, they are hard to do – no doubt about that – but they also have a large skill component. That means all of these exercises have little nuances that allow them to be performed with ease. If you don’t know these little techniques, the exercise becomes almost impossible to do. Therefore, yes, I’m strong, but a far cry from what most people think or give me credit for.

I have also been told that I’m blessed with genetics. That is also subject to interpretation. I’m about 5’9”, bald and naturally doughy. As far as naturally athletic, I would say I’m pretty average. For example, I’m not naturally fast, I don’t have a high vertical or have ever performed freakish lifts. I can gain muscle pretty fast, but can get fat even faster. I have terrible knees from all of the combative pounding of the last 35 years. Everything I have ever accomplished has come by outworking all of the competition. I have never won any “major or national” competition. However, I have always preferred to get my butt kicked at a high-level event, rather then enter low level competition and win. I have always “competed up” and have participated in events at the state or national level. I have always trained with pros or national champions and thus have had harder training sessions then competitions. As far as I’m concerned – I have had the life and wear and tear of a professional athlete for 30 years – that is a long athletic career. That is a longer period than most athletes compete for.

As far as health, parents are in their seventies. They are in relatively good condition and are on some meds. Dad takes meds for hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes for an enlarged prostate). He is overweight but fit – he loves to move. Mom just started on cholesterol and diabetes meds after menopause – she hates to move. Considering that both of my parents have never lived a regimented life of proper nutrition and exercise, they are not doing too bad. As for me, I passed my first of 9 kidney stones at 25 and have had Lithoterpsy twice to break up large stones that would not pass. I’m on 100 mg of allopuranol and magnesium citrate everyday to control production. A couple of years ago, I had to start taking 40 mg of Zocor to control my 240 CHOL (40 mg). SO, at 44, my health genetics seem, again, “very ordinary” at best!

June of last year I was concluding my heavy workouts with my NFL guys. Since March I was training and eating like an NFL player. I was on creatine, not watching my diet and training heavy. What happens? I go from 215 to about 228. By early June, my lifts are good enough to work out with 300+ pounders and “put it to them” on all the lifts. My joints were killing me - I was not recovering with all of my travels and pressure of a new business. I really needed something to happen because I was on taking Vicodin and Vioxx to control the pain at night.

One day, a man came into IHP and said he was a local MD looking for a place to refer his patients. We talked about what we did at IHP and what he did in his practice. In turns out that Dr. Brizel was an emergency medical doctor and internist, specializing in "anti aging.” He worked with some high level athletes and many normal people just looking for that edge. When we spoke about my situation, he implored me to get some blood work at his office. I took Dr. Brizel up on his offer, and he found my testosterone to be 195 ng/ml (normal ranges for a young male are 600-800 ng/ml). He suggested the use of dermal application of a Testosterone gel to regulate the T levels and see if higher levels would allow me to repair my constant training aches. After four weeks, my testosterone was up to 595ng/ml. However, my weight had climbed to 232 pounds and my joints were worse (i.e., now I needed Vioxx and Vicodin to make the pain go away enough so that I could fall asleep for a few hours). Dr. Brizel did not like the fact that I was on Zocor and tried to get it down with niacin, guga lip extract and a variety of other supplements, which did not work over a four-month period.

Desperate from the pain and having some concerns of becoming a Vicodin addict, I started doing research on androgens. I read plenty of research and spoke with some of top scientists in the country concerning the use of Decca and Dianabol. I spoke to Dr. Brizel, and he was not for it, but he understood my “Vicodin and Vioxx for life or a cycle of an androgen” desperation. He offered to monitor me and run a four-week trial. He also preferred to see me go on a four-week monitored trial of androgens then to see me become dependent on pain killers. This is the first time I have ever used steroids in my life – but it was either this to get better or stop training all together. I went on 1 cc of Decca per week, which is 200 mg, in addition to the T gel I was using. The results: In four weeks, I shot up to 238 and did NOT get any better. My lifts started to decrease because the pain was worse, and I lost my “mojo” for training. I stopped ALL steroid and supplement (i.e., Creatine) use after the four week trial. The take home message here is, I don’t know why steroids did not work for me in terms of recovery and bigger lifts. Maybe I was so over trained (I don’t think that was it) I was at the point of no return when I started them. The bottom line is, I will not go that route again.

After a three to four week layoff from training and all supplements, I was down to about 230. I started back training for about two months with no real goals in mind. By September, I had decided that the only way to really get back into shape was to have an end goal in mind. I made up my mind to get back into Judo and try to compete at the Nationals the following April, in the 198 pound class. I started a mild jogging program to drop weight. I started with one mile per day, three times per week. By the second week, my knees blew up from the little running I was doing. I had never had knee problems until that time. After a few weeks of dealing with the knee pain, I got an MRI, and it showed that my knees were worn out. One knee showed a complex meniscus tear. My orthopedic surgeon recommended we would repair the damage via arthroscopic surgery. Due to my lecturing schedule, surgery was set for January. That would give me 12 weeks to rehab before my competition. Between September and January, I got in great shape using the upper and lower body elliptical (the program I outline in this article), judo practice and the great diet and supplement program Dr. Brizel had me on. I dropped 20 pounds between September and January using four to five week hypertrophy, strength and metabolic cycles (see training charts). I showed up in great shape for my knee arthroscopy.

The day of the surgery, I asked my doctor to go into both knees and get all of the cleaning over and done with. He agreed, but said rehab would be difficult on both knees simultaneously. I said I would deal and he agreed to the bilateral knee arthroscopy. When I came out of the surgery, he said that he had some good news and bad news. Good news – my menisci just needed some cleaning. They were still in tact. Bad news – I had 60 year-old knees and would soon need a knee replacement if I keep up the pounding. I said, “No problem, I’ll be a good boy and find ways to train without pounding my knees.”

By January, Dr. Brizel had been trying to get my CHOL down with various supplements. He tried everything he knew and still nothing under 240. His work with a few compounds allowed him to design a plan of attack. It needed to be safe and effective. He decided to put me on Zetia to improve the effectiveness of the Zocor. He also put me on Avodart, a prostate medication that blocks the formation of DHT and raises testosterone levels. I also started using Test 1, a dermal gel that has been shown to be seven times more anabolic than testosterone. Dr. Brizel and Tom Incledon designed and tested T1 with very promising results.

After my knee surgery in January, I started the MONSTER SUPPLEMENT PROGRAM OUTLINED BELOW. By April, I was down to 200 pounds.

MONSTER SUPPLEMENTATION

Arthritis - Weight loss - MEDS

JOINT FORMULA

WEIGHT LOSS, anti-oxidants and recovery supplements

Meds (Cholesterol, kidney stones, prostate and testosterone levels)

I did such a good job of “pre-habilitating” my legs for surgery, I was back to normal two week post-op. I was dragging and pulling tires for leg strength (see my PTontheNET.com article Extreme Training for the Average Joe and Jane). We were doing metabolic sprints on the Versa Climber for cardio, long Elliptical runs for calorie burning, Judo for technique and our Hybrid program for strength and power (we’ll get to that soon). From February to April, I went into the zone. I did not miss a workout – no matter what. When traveling, I would go to the hotel gym or nearest other gym, to get my cardio in. I would wake up early and get my training before my flights and train on Sundays to make up for workouts.

When traveling, I packaged my supplements and did not miss a feeding. If I couldn’t get to a real meal, I would do a liquid meal. Food came into my body every 2-4 hours. Due to my busy schedule, I could not get regular meals in. I used two scoops of Isopure protein powder at work as a meal. At one time, my schedule got so crazy I did not have the time (or the presence of mind) to make the shakes of Isopure. I was turned on to the Extreme Smoothies by VHT (170 cal, 35 g of PRO, 5 g of carbs and 1 g of fat). These ready to drink cans were what the doctor ordered. I would drink 4-5 everyday and have a huge salad with a lean meat at night. This nutritional approach is NOT your normal approach – but my life is not your normal life. However, this nutritional approach allowed me to get regular feedings, over 200 grams of protein, great oils, lots of veggies and fiber, lots of water, and with no suffering.

OK, now for the cool stuff – the TRAINING. I separated my post-op phase of training into a 12-week format (i.e. late January, February, March and April). Three phases: Hypertrophy (i.e. training base), Strength and Power/Metabolic. Over the years, I have grown to understand and appreciate the effectiveness of various training styles. Throughout the last 7 years, I developed a “Hybrid system of training,” which incorporated the best of the best. It combines the best of the traditional lifting, power development, metabolic training, stability and balance training – performed as a circuit.

After my surgery, I worked out eight to 10 times per week: two strength days, two power/metabolic days, two to three Judo classes and three to four long cardio bouts (800 to 1000 calories/workout) per week. While I was traveling, I got in the cardio. I even did two of the same workout in one day to make up for airplane time. By week’s end, all workouts had to be completed. No – that is not easy or comfortable. No – that is not normal. But, you know what? We all want to drop 20 to 30 pounds, grow hair, grow taller, become beautiful, have boobs and smaller butts. Well, guess what? That’s not normal. You want normal? Look in the mirror and learn to love it baby, because that is what you normally look like. You can’t get extraordinary results with an ordinary effort! So, if you want abnormal changes (look at my pictures – that is a very abnormal transformation), then you will have to live an abnormal life.

November 1 2002
230lbs - 19.5%
March 21 2003
208lbs - 12%
April 16 2003
200lbs - 9%

The hypertrophy cycle went on from January 27th to February 14th. I made this phase only three weeks because I was in decent shape, plenty of muscle and just wanted to expand my training base. The first week, I went for three sets of 12 reps. The second week, I went three sets of 10 reps, and the third week, I went for four sets of eight reps. As I have said before, I don’t do the tempo stuff – we just prefer to use more weight and move a bit faster. We believe tempo will take care of itself when we start loading up the bar. Remember, we train “performance hypertrophy” not “aesthetic hypertrophy.” That is, we want to be “big enough to kick ass” – the rest is beer and peanuts. We rest enough to recover between exercises but never sit down. The entire workout takes about 45 to 55 minutes. If you take more then that, you are BS-ing.

You will notice I do not have any “leg” exercises on the strength days. That is because my knees are shot. The squatting with 400 and lunging with 225 days are over for me. Therefore, I pulled heavy tires for leg strength on my power/metabolic days. Pulling and pushing does not hurt me knees, it gives me one hell of a pump and makes my legs stronger during pulling and pushing. My power/metabolic days are my easy days and I can even do this workout before or after my Judo classes. During the hypertrophy phase, power is not an emphasis, neither is metabolic conditioning. For a week at a glance – see the charts below.

HYPERTROPHY CYCLE (3-5 weeks)

Monday

DB CLEANS –3-4X5 ____/___,___/____
SB Neck (Front/Side) ____/___,___/____
Airx 1L Balance ____/___,___/____
DB Pulls – 3-4x5 ____/___,___/____
SB Neck (Back) ____/___,___/____
Band Rotation (2 blue) ____/___,___/____
BB Inc Bench-3-4X8-12 ____/___,___/____
SB Prone Rolls ____/___,___/____
SB Reverse Hyper ____/___,___/____
Row-3-4X8-12 ____/___,___/____
SB Skier ____/___,___/____
SB Hyper ____/___,___/____
Dips to Failure ____/___,___/____

Tuesday

Thursday

DB SNATCH 1A – 3x5 ___/___,___/____
Head Harness ____/___,___/____
HOB SB P/U ____/___,___/____
GM/DL- 3x 8 ____/___,___/____
Pulley Rot ____/___,___/____
UB Fitter (Lateral) ____/___,___/____
Pulldowns -3-4X8-12 ____/___,___/____
SB- Roll out ____/___,___/____
SB- 1L Bridge ____/___,___/____
FLAT BENCH-3-4X8-12 ____/___,___/____
SB Hip Twister ____/___,___/____
DB 21’S ____/___,___/____
Recline Rope Pulls ____/___,___/____

Friday

My strength phase went on from Feb 17th to March 7th. As with the hypertrophy, I was plenty strong and just wanted to make sure I would not lose any strength while dropping the rest of the weight needed to make the 198 lb. weight class (about 17 pounds). I figured 3 weeks would be plenty of time to peak my strength. On the power exercises, the first week I went for 3 sets of 5 reps, the second week I went 3 sets of 4 reps, and the 3rd week I went for 4 sets of 3 reps. On the strength exercises, the first week I went for 3 sets of 6 reps, the second week I went 3 sets of 5 reps, and the 3rd week I went for 4 sets of 4 reps. These are not hard-set numbers, but general guidelines. If I felt like flooring it, I would go as heavy as I wanted. If I felt I needed a little more recovery between heavy days, I would go a little lighter. As a rule of thumb I “took it to the hole” on each lift only once a week. At 44, my body was still able to recover with that amount of rest between heavy poundage's.

The power and tire drag days get a little heavier and slower in movement speed. The intent to move fast is still there, but the weight of the tires and medicine balls are such that the actual movements get a bit slower. That’s OK – it is the strength phase and power is still not the main concern. Although much tougher then the previous cycle, this day can still be pulled off before or after a Judo class. Below is a week at a glance of the strength cycle.

STRENGTH CYCLE (3-5 weeks)

Monday

DB CLEANS –3-4x3-5 ____/___,___/____
SB Neck (Front/Side) ____/___,___/____
Airx 1L Balance ____/___,___/____
DB Pulls – 3-4x 3-5 ____/___,___/____
SB Neck (Back) ____/___,___/____
Band Rot (2 blue) ____/___,___/____
BB Inc Bench -3-4x4-6 ____/___,___/____
SB Prone Roll ____/___,___/____
SB Rev Hyper ____/___,___/____
Row-3-4x4-6 ____/___,___/____
SB Skier ____/___,___/____
SB Hyper ____/___,___/____
Dips to Failure ____/___,___/____

Tuesday

Thursday

DB SNATCH 1A – 3-4x5 ____/___,___/____
Head Harness ____/___,___/____
HOB SB P/U ____/___,___/____
GM/DL- 3-4 x 3-5 ____/___,___/____
Pulley Rot ____/___,___/____
UB Fitter (Lateral) ____/___,___/____
Pulldowns -3-4X4-6 ____/___,___/____
SB- Roll out ____/___,___/____
SB- 1L Bridge ____/___,___/____
FLAT BENCH-3-4X4-6 ____/___,___/____
SB Hip Twister ____/___,___/____
DB 21’S ____/___,___/____
Recline Rope Pulls ____/___,___/____

Friday

Now, we come to what I consider the most important part of the training program, the power endurance and metabolic phase. This is where you peak explosive power endurance and get in gut wrenching shape. This is where you “sweat so much in practice – you don’t bleed in battle.” The power phase is pretty easy to follow in terms of directions. I perform 5 reps of traditional exercise (in blue) with moderately-heavy weight (i.e., a heavy five reps but not to failure). I then take about a minute of rest, before performing an equivalent, unloaded exercise as fast as I can. This coupling allows me to charge up my CNS without fatiguing my muscle. The result is the power output of the unloaded exercise goes through the roof! I follow that coupling with a short rest and a rotational core exercise of some kind. I take about a 1-2 minute rest between each circuit. These are not exhaustive training sessions – they just peak power. Because these two lifting days are not as hard as the other two days, I now do them on Judo days.

On the power endurance and metabolic days, things are a little different. These days are sometimes what nightmares are made of. The whole idea of these training sessions is to take your body to a place where no opponent will take it; maximal efforts are the norm. We will get the body tired and then ask it to move quickly and with high power outputs. We start with either the “matrix” or “leg cranks” (see Part 1 of this series) to exhaust the lower body. Then we perform fast sprints with the tire pulls/drags. This works on those hard driving or pulling movement in the middle of a match. We move on to some ladder drills for foot speed and agility. This gets us used to quick foot movements when you are dead. The medicine ball throws are light and explosive. Here we work on the explosion needed during the set up of a throw. Finally, we end up with Versa Climber or 50% incline sprints. One of the metabolic days, we use the Versa Climber and try to crank out 120-130 reps in 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds and repeat. The other day we will either run 300-yard shuttles using a 1:3 work rest ratio or run incline sprints on the NordicTrack Incline Trainer. On the incline trainer we will do 10 repeat of 10 second runs at 6 mph with a 40-50 second rest period. It does not sound like much, but at about 7 seconds everything shuts down and it takes everything you have to finish 10 seconds – especially after about 4-5 repeats. See the chart below for a complete look at the week during the power-metabolic phase.

POWER / METABOLIC CYCLE (3-5 weeks)

Monday

DB CLEANS –3X5 ___/___,___/____
Box Jumps ___/___,___/____
SB Neck (Front/Side) ___/___,___/____
DB Pulls – 3x5 ___/___,___/____
Vertical Jumps ___/___,___/____
SB Neck (Back) ___/___,___/____
BB Incline Bench-3X5 ___/___,___/____
MB Chest Pass ___/___,___/____
SB Rev Hyper ___/___,___/____
Row-3X5 ___/___,___/____
Plyo Rope Pulls ___/___,___/____
SB Skier ___/___,___/____

Tuesday

Thursday

DB SNATCH 1A – 3x5 ___/___,___/____
Rev Scoop ___/___,___/____
Head Harness ___/___,___/____
GM- 3x5 ___/___,___/____
Explosive Band Pulls ___/___,___/____
Fitter Lat ___/___,___/____
Pulldown (Sim) 3X5 ___/___,___/____
MB Slams ___/___,___/____
SB- 1L Bridge ___/___,___/____
FLAT BENCH-3X5 ___/___,___/____
Explosive MB Push-up ___/___,___/____
21’S ___/___,___/____

Friday

My power-metabolic phase concluded on the 9th of April, leaving me 10 days to recover and tune up. I had a quick power workout on the 14th – just to “keep my powder dry.” I managed water intake and got in a few “sauna suit” cardio sessions to rid my body of the last bit of water. I left for the nationals on the 16th, weighed in on the 17th at 197 and competed on the 19th. They give the Masters a little more time to recover from making weight. I competed at about 208.

Moments from the Trenches of Training

Flipping and pulling tires
Box Cleans for explosive power. Explosive rotational training for my throws.
Pulley Suplexes for picking up opponents and gently placing them on their heads

Notes from the Trenches:

The Nationals were an absolute success in my eyes. It was my first judo competition and my first time competing in a grappling sport in 25 years! All I wanted to do was to come back safely and be able to continue to work. I wanted to compete to the best of my ability and not lose to conditioning or strength. I accomplished all of that! I got a buy in the first round and won my second round match with a beautiful counter I had been practicing for four months. My third round match was a close loss to the guy who ended up winning the division (a little more experience, and I would have won it). My fourth round match for third place was with the defending champion, and he sent me flying – an absolute perfect throw. I’m now practicing that throw for next year. Remember “causitive cures” - if it caused the problem, eventually it has to be part of the cure. So technically, I tied for 4th out of 16 places.

Facing off with an opponent
Me getting some - from last year’s champion! Me giving some!

The entire experience was phenomenal, and I would not change it for the world. My family was with me, we experienced Vegas and enjoyed our time together. I competed well and came back in one piece. What more can you ask for?

The family at the Nationals

At the end of it all, it is all about the trip, not the final destination. It is about working for it and not merely wishing for it. It is about walking the walk and not just talking the talk. It’s about living your own life and not living it through someone else (i.e., your kids). It is about competing against your personal best and nobody else. It is about self discovery, personal growth and the triumph of the human spirit. You only go through this life once. How do you want to be remembered?