Sunday, January 19, 2014

Guide: What Supplements to Take and to Avoid

It would be cool, but it doesn't happen.
I’ve discussed supplementing briefly before in this post, in which I basically talk about our inherent belief in the magic Hulkout potion that will magically transform us into Mr. Olympia overnight and, more importantly, how it doesn’t actually exist.

I also talked about how I generally prefer you don’t take supplements at all during the first several (eight) weeks of your training, so you use this time to learn how to feed yourself better without relying on any type of supplements (as a lot of times in your bodybuilding life you won’t have supplements to rely on).

That being said, it is important for you to know about supplements because while they won’t turn you into your favorite superhero, they certainly will give you a boost that is quite frankly very important. Following, I’m going to describe the five things I think you should take into consideration when shopping for supplements, and which ones to avoid.


Whey Protein

Protein is an extremely important element in your nutrition plan. Though the bulk of your intake should be carbs, you’re not going to gain a pound of muscle if you don’t ingest the basic building blocks of muscle. Whey protein is basically the precious nutrient you’d find in fish or beef, but in convenient powder form.

What’s cool about this supplement is that you can very easily measure your intake, you can beef up the number of calories you take when you take it, and you can just drink it down like a milkshake, easily putting in your body the equivalent nutrients of eating a big piece of chicken. It goes down easy, often tastes great (especially if taken with milk which also boosts the caloric content), and you can eat again soon after taking it.

There aren’t many downsides to whey protein. It’s easy to mix, easy to boost, and relatively cheap. The biggest problem here is that the product is so popular that choosing one at the store might be a nightmare. My favorite one is probably Syntha-6 by BSN. Not necessarily the cheapest, but the best mix of flavor, value, and results.

            When to take it: The dose depends on your caloric intake, but the best moments to take it is half an hour before your workout and immediately after your workout. This will ensure your muscles get flooded with protein in the moment they need it the most.


Not to be confused with other white powders.
Creatine is an aminoacid that’s naturally produced by your liver and is an essential building block that keeps your muscles from liquefying. As such, a surplus of creatine in your muscles is a must to make them grow. Creatine is pretty awesome because it is by far the most useful and cheapest supplement, and it has pretty much zero side effects.

You can find creatine in powders from pretty much every single supplement manufacturing lab, which also makes picking one kind of hard. I didn’t take creatine before but I started recently, and my creatine of choice is Dymatize’s Creatine Micronized. It’s very cheap, tasteless and very easy to take. You can’t go wrong with it.

When to take it: with creatine, there is a phase-based dosage cycle to make its effects optimal. I recommend checking the label in the bottle to be sure, but the basic gist is you need to ‘cover’ your muscles with the stuff at first, which means you take 25g, divided by 5 servings of 5g a day, for a week. Then, for the length of the cycle, you take 5g a day for about six or seven weeks. Then, you take some time off it, and begin a new cycle.


Taking pills is kind of breaking a wall when you’re taking supplements because pills are scarier than powders. The only supplement that comes in pill form that I can 100% guarantee is helpful and will not damage your body in any way is a multivitamin. This is a pill that millions of people, bodybuilders or not, take casually.

Basically this won’t directly affect your muscle growth like protein and creatine would, but it’s really important for general health. Getting the correct amount of vitamins in your body (which you can also find easily in fruit and vegetables) will guarantee faster muscle growth, strength, better sleep, better hair, better nails, better bones, etc. Again, this won’t turn you into Superman, but the feeling of general health is definitely there.

When to take it: Depending the dosage of each pill, you’re good to take one pill before bed every night. With MV it really doesn’t matter so much.


Nitric Oxide

A lot of bodybuilders would give me shit for putting this here. Nitric Oxide is pretty damn awesome, but it has several drawbacks you definitely need to consider.

My first times on Nitric Oxide.
The good thing is that taking Nitric Oxide is the closest thing there is to taking the magic Megahulk Elixir. You know that feeling when you’re working out and your muscles harden? That’s what’s called ‘the pump’, and nitric oxide promotes that. What it does is rush into your blood and engorges your muscles. The effects it gives you are amazing: first, a tingly drunken feeling that just makes you want to go out, climb the Empire State Building and roar, banging your chest; second, once you actually start working out, it really pumps your muscles with blood, making them just grow and harden in front of your eyes, even making your veins pop the hell out. Third, it makes you want to work out harder and for a longer time. This taken in tandem with a pre and post-workout serving of protein, ensures that the protein reaches your muscles during your workout, and during recovery, when they need it the most.

The bad thing is that after you return to being Bruce Banner—and it happens relatively quickly—there aren’t a whole bunch of lasting effects on your body, which means that you’re paying for the feeling of turning into a monster in the gym for a while instead of for an actual lasting effect on your muscles. Considering this isn’t exactly cheap, it’s far from being an imperative part of your diet. What’s worse, is that this one does have some poor side effects. Let’s talk about them.

Most NO2 products will give you the shits, which is an industry term for a terribly upset stomach: diarrhea, cramps, farts like mustard gas, maybe nausea. The worst thing about it is that I can’t recommend a specific product and guarantee it won’t make you want to shit out your amygdalae. I haven’t been able to find a product everyone agrees causes or doesn’t cause an upset stomach. When I first took NO XPlode, it worked for me, but when I took it again, it was the poops. Another shitty side effect is that it might give you the jitters and cause sleeplessness. You need to be careful if you don’t want to spend a long restless night shaking like you got Parkinson’s.

Also, you will develop a tolerance rather quickly, which will mean you’ll have to take more and more. And what’s worse, you might become entirely dependent to it. Not addicted, but if you’ll find yourself less willing to hit the weights without it. These are all things you need to consider. I’ve found two products that have never failed me or given me poor sides: Bullnox Androrush by Betancourt and Jack3d Micro by USP Labs.

Again, if you’re interested in that awesome feeling which I genuinely love, look into reviews of each product, but there will still need to be some experimentation on your part before you find an NO2 product that works for you without turning you into a shaky shitting machine.

Weight Gainers

Pretty much.
I definitely think that weight gainers get a bad rep. Weight gainers are powders like protein, but they come with carbs and fats, as well as a lot more crap to up the calorie count in each scoop. The good thing about it is that it’s extremely easy to put a shitload of calories into your body. The bad thing is that depending on the product, those calories might be mainly coming from sugar and filler instead of protein, carbs or fats.

This is where you need to stick to respectable brands and check out the reviews. Yeah, you’re very skinny and your body will be great at processing the sugar and filler, but you want to get muscular, not fat. I’ve found Monster Mass by CytroSport and Carnivore Mass by MuscleMeds to be pretty good in general. Don’t be too afraid of these, but don’t use them to substitute your meals.


Testosterone Boosters

Though Bullnox claims to have testosterone boosting agents (and if it does I never noticed), this is a supplement you need to avoid. A lot of labs promote test testosterone boosters as a safe alternative to steroids, which really sounds like a great thing if you want the effects of steroids but are too afraid to take them.

See, there are several types of anabolic steroids. When you take them, you’re putting in your body a chemical that imitates the effects of testosterone. In a great world, that means quick and amazing muscle growth and loss of fat, but with some scary side effects that go from acne and hair loss to gynecomastia (man boobs that can only be removed through surgery), liver disease, and shrunken testicles. Yes, a lot of these side effects can be taken away or even entirely avoided if you know what you’re doing, but it’s still a scary road to take. Testosterone boosters claim to have these effects, if on a lesser capacity.

Again, it sounds great, but the truth is that you’re more likely to see the bad effects of steroids than the good ones, and that if the pill works at all. If you’re unfamiliar with the hormonal chemistry of your body, and don’t have a doctor to help you do hormonal supplements/steroids in a safe way, you need to stay the fuck away from this, promising as though it may look. You might fuck up your body for good.

That’s all for now. There are other supplements that might be helpful (like aminoacids), but for now this feels like a good guide for you to get started. You just need to research every thing you decide put in your body. Remember a lot of this stuff isn’t playing around, so be smart and don’t take anything that will cause you short-term or long-term damage.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Your Ideal Body, or “I don’t want to get too big”.

Lately, I’ve been talking about my own journey in bodybuilding with others. Not by my own will, as I don’t really talk in detail about the physical transformation I’ve gone through in the last years. It’s not something I ever bring up by myself.

Mainly, this happens more than before because there was a huge change in my life a few months ago. I won’t go into details because who the hell cares, but let’s just say that whoever is writing my life decided I had grown too comfortable this season and decided to Shayamalan my shit. In the fallout of the big twist, I was left with a deep necessity to meet new people and rekindle old friendships I might have neglected. It’s extremely difficult for me, especially now that I’m older, but it’s something that I’ve had to do and have done pretty well.

Nowadays, when I meet new people, the first thing they see is a big hairy guy, and “what did you do to get big?” is a question that asks itself. Not because I’m so striking and monstrous, but because it’s an obvious ice-breaker in social situations. Now, like I said, I’ve also been busy trying to renew friendships with people who hadn’t seen me in years, when I was 100+ lbs smaller, inches shorter, and didn’t have a hair on my face (then, the question generally is “What the fuck happened to you?”, to which I like replying “A big wolf bit me”).

This leads to me having the same conversation and Q&A every time I find myself in a social event. I don’t mind of course; talking about bodybuilding to me is as fun as talking about movies, videogames or shooting the shit of any kind—I enjoy it. The only thing that bothers me is that these conversations seem scripted, so at one point it gets boring. I always get the same questions and I always give the same answers like a disgraced politician doing damage control.

Generally these conversations take place with people who aren’t as skinny as I was (because people who are as skinny as I was don’t like to openly tell a big guy “I want to get big too!”), but still either want to get more muscular or pretend to so we can keep talking without any awkward silences.

You know what’s the one constant comment?

“Help me out; I’d love bigger muscles! Just remember I don’t want to get too bulky, you know?”

It’s incredible how often people tell me this when they ask me, or anyone (it’s also a mantra in beginner bodybuilding forums), for bodybuilding advice. I would be surprised if the idea hasn't crossed your own mind as you read this blog. Hell, when I was helping my brother out when he opened his Crossfit gym, part of what I did was welcome prospective patrons and explain what were the goings-on in the Crossfit gym. Luckily for them, and my brother, “You don’t get all huge and bulky!” is an effective selling point.

The face of regret.
“Too huge” or "too bulky", in this context, implicitly refers to bodies like Phil Heath (pictured), Kai Greene, Ronnie Coleman, or any pro who has graced a FLEX cover in the last thirty years. This, as opposed to a lean but defined body you would find under the shirts of Mattthew McConaughey or that guy from "Drive". While I don’t share the opinion, I understand why the idea of being so muscular is unappealing to most.

Yes, there are a million misconceptions about bodybuilding, so why should I write a blog post dedicated to this one in particular?

Because a lot of people don’t want to start lifting heavy weights and begin their growth because they’re afraid they’ll get “too huge”. Now, if I take several steps back, I can more or less see why someone would ask this, but it’s still  hard for me not to find this concern extremely absurd. 

Let me explain.

All right, first off: you could purposefully cycle every anabolic steroid, HGH and testosterone shot for the next five years and you probably still won’t have that body you want to avoid. Nasser el Sonbaty didn’t reach 330 lbs accidentally; he worked extremely hard to get and maintain the body he had. Bodybuilding in that professional level is a 24/7 job that requires extreme care to exercise, diet, a lot of focus and of course the intelligent and controlled use of very specific drugs. It’s not something you acquire unless you really, really want it. And even if you really, really wanted it, it’s likely you won’t get there anyway.

Here's another way to look at it. Would you stop practising on your guitar because "I'm afraid I'll become amazing at it"? Of course not. Even if you wanted to, it's not likely you will.

So here’s what I like to ask. What exactly is the fear of people who want to avoid “getting too bulky”? That one day they’re gonna fall asleep after a huge meal and a beastly time at the gym, and then wake up the next day on a broken bed and wearing torn PJs because they accidentally hulked out of them overnight?

“Oh fiddlesticks!” they’d growl in a frightening new basso. “Now I gone done it! I got too big and ladies won’t want my bulky freak ass!”

"Cruel fate! What have I done to deserve this!"
See how absurd it is? Getting huge isn’t something that just happens suddenly or accidentally. It’s a very slow (though very rewarding) process. What does this mean? It means that your growth is going to be gradual and deliberate and you won’t gain a single pound unless you want to gain it.

Again, what does this mean? It means that you’ll always be in complete control of your body size and you’ll know exactly when you’re finally in the body you always wanted.

And the cool thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that figuring out your exact dream body is harder than you think. You never know how your perception of yourself and your wishes will change as your body does. Maybe right now you want to gain 10 pounds so you can look like an Abercrombie model, but you don’t know if in a year you realize that it’s a body like Thor’s what gets the ladies going, and you’ll now want to gain another 50 pounds. But what if during the two years it took you to gain those 50 pounds you grew attached to bodybuilding and you suddenly want to look like Lou Ferrigno.

Right now you don’t know what you do or don't want, but that’s a good thing because you’ll always be in control. And hell, if one day you realize that you no longer want to be big, you can always get smaller. It’s not a one way street. You’re not burning any bridges with every curl. Remember the “muscle turns into fat!” thing is the dumbest myth in the sport; muscle can’t turn into fat any more than gold can turn into a lemon cake.

TL;DR: The absurd fear of getting a body you don’t want right now should never deter your wish to get out of a body in which you’re already unhappy.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Basic Guide to Gym Etiquette

I just recently started going to the actual gym—or rather, the tiny room in my college while they renovate the real gym—again, and in only two days I got enough inspiration to write this article: a very basic guide to gym etiquette, because apparently it’s something that needs to be written.

Avoid looking like this.
Gym etiquette—to say, how to behave while at the gym—boils down to one simple rule: don’t be a goddamn asshole.

That’s it. That’s the rule. You’re done reading if you want. However, there are many sides to this one rule which you need to respect from the very, very first day you set foot in a gym. Being new there doesn’t excuse you of anything or gives you license for anything, just as much as being a 310 lb Mr. Olympia runner-up doesn’t either. I will outline a list of basic sub-rules here.

Be very respectful, tactful and sensitive.

Golden rule. More so than in life outside the gym.

I don’t give a hairy shit if you’re Brad Pitt or Phil Heath: if you have the grapes to bully, make fun, make snarky remarks or otherwise insult another customer at the gym, I wish you the very worst. If you see a skinny guy having trouble and you just laugh or make fun with your bros, if you see an overweight girl and make a hurtful comment, you deserve to be stripped naked, castrated, flayed alive, pissed on by a diabetic grizzly, and then put to death.

Even if you’re doing it as (what you consider) a “good-spirited” joke, it’s just deplorable. You never know the insecurities the object of your jokes is dealing with, and your little jest might send them back home, never to return to the gym.

Don’t be that guy. Ever.

Bring a towel, and use it.

"What, you don't want my sweat?!"
Many gyms—but not enough—require that you bring a towel along for you workout. What I don’t understand is how a lot of people don’t really seem to get why this is being asked of them. They bring a towel along, hang it on the machine they’re using, do a couple of pull downs, then take it and wipe their faces.

Here’s what that towel is for: to keep your gross butthole sweat away from others. Among other things.

It’s not to refresh your face after it’s gotten sweaty. It’s so you put it on the damn seat of the damn machine so you don’t get sweat on the equipment. And if you do get sweat on the equipment, as you probably will, so you can wipe it the hell off. No one wants your salty signature on their clothes, so don’t leave it for them.

And it’s not only that, I mean—you don’t want someone else’s butthole sweat on your clothes, do you? Unless you’re into some weird R. Kelly body fluids fetish (this reference brought to you by the year 2002), chances are you’re not. It’s just basic hygiene.

Don’t hog the weights.

It’s easy for people to sometimes feel like they own the gym. After you’ve been going there for a while sometimes you might feel like you’re a member of the club of people who goes there more often than the rest. Hell, maybe you’re even friends with the instructor, so you get to call the shots.

Nope. The equipment isn’t yours any more than it is anyone else’s so hogging a bunch of weights without sharing them is absolutely unacceptable. If you need to do a drop set with dumbbells, you either make completely sure no one needs any of the weights you’re using, or replace the exercise with an equivalent in a machine or cables. If you must use three pairs of dumbbells, and someone else needs them, talk to them and alternate their use.

If you’re alternating a machine with someone, return it to the other’s setting.

If you follow this rule, and you should, you’ll get frustrated at first because you’ll probably be the only one who does. Basically, if you find yourself using the same machine as someone else at the gym, and you’re using different weights, change it for the other after you finish your set so they can start theirs.

Say you’re using cables and doing tricep pulldowns with 100 lbs. Some dude wants to use it to do cable curls with 50 lbs. You should agree to alternate with the guy and when you’re done with your set, you switch the weight from 100 lbs to 50 lbs for him. Unless the guy is a total prick, he will do the same for you. Even better, he’ll learn that it’s the cool thing to do and will do it for someone else next time.

Be that guy.

Return every single weight and bumper you use.

"Hey guise check out how much I  just squatted!"
If you finish squatting and you leave a bunch of bumpers on the squat rack for the next person to clean up, you deserve a special particularly rapey place in hell. You never know who is the next person who is going to use the squat rack or Smith machine. It might be a skinny guy or a girl who can’t hope to remove those bumpers. Same goes for leaving dumbbells on the floor after you’re done with them.

You were strong enough to use them you sure as fuck are going to be strong enough to put them back. Even if you found them on the floor in the first place, you're better off being the polite guy who puts them back than the one who doesn't give a shit.

Don’t be an attention whore.

Sometimes, when completing a particularly hard set, you need to grunt a little. It happens; unless you're in Planet Fitness, it's completely okay.

That being said, don't be that guy/girl who desperately wants everyone to look at you. Don't grunt and yell with every rep. Don't drop the weights heavily (if you brought that deadlift up, you can bring it down!). Don't start dancing to show everyone your enthusiasm and confidence. No one in there is your audience; they don't give a shit. Just do your thing.

Seriously, if you're worth being looked at, chances are you are going to be looked at.

Don't correct anyone’s form.

Sometimes you’ll be doing your thing and you’ll notice some dude next to you doing an exercise wrong—either holding the weights wrong, not doing a full range of motion, using momentum, or something else. It’s very important that, unless you see s/he’s hurting themselves, don’t approach and correct them.

Here’s the thing: if you’re new to the gym, chances are you don’t really know what the other guy/girl is doing. There are many variations to very basic exercises that look like poor form. I was once doing reverse grip curls and some bro decided I was holding the bar wrong. He might have meant well, but it was irritating nonetheless.

If someone approaches you and for whatever reason asks for help, and you’re 100% completely positively absolutely sure that you know what you’re talking about, then go ahead. Otherwise, point him/her towards the gym coach.

If you’re bringing your own music, use headphones.

This is pretty self explanatory. There are few things more irritating, in and outside the gym, than the dude who thinks everyone wants to share their shit music taste. If you don't have headphones, tough shit; you're stuck listening to the repetitive un-tss-un-tss that inexplicably booms in every gym ever.

Don’t stare.

Don’t stare at the huge guy bench pressing 300 lbs (even if he wants you to). Don’t stare at the skinny guy having trouble curling 15 lbs. For the love of Jesus’ rock-hard abs, don’t stare at the hot girl doing seated hip abductions. This shouldn’t have to be said.

If you’re going to pose check yourself out, don’t get in anyone’s way.

I can’t really think of any reason why you would start striking poses in the gym unless you’re Ronnie Coleman and you’re in Gold’s Gym. That being said—all right, there’s nothing really wrong with posing if you’re preparing yourself for a show and want to see what you look like with a pump.

However, the mirrors in the gym aren’t there for you to check yourself out—they’re in there to let you see your form from different angles and make sure you’re doing it properly. If you stand in front of a mirror to check yourself out and are getting in the way of someone else’s proper use of the mirror, fuck you.

Oh and god help you if you take your fucking shirt off. Unless it’s a Crossfit gym (where it should still fucking unacceptable), you’re going to reveal yourself as the figuratively biggest douchebag in town.

Fun story: once I saw a dude get a boner from checking himself out. I am not kidding.

Don’t chat up the instructor.

This will depend entirely on each individual gym. Being a gym instructor is a pretty boring job, so many times they are open for chat and such, but I always recommend not wasting anyone’s time when you’re at the gym. You should be concerned about your own workout, not how much the instructor can bench.

Here’s the thing: chances are these guys have heard the same comments, compliments and questions a trillion times. A lot of people like befriending the instructors to get his approval, confirm a sense of belonging and demonstrate seniority in the gym (remember gyms are both the cradles and graves of insecurity). Remember you’re more likely to annoy the instructor than you are to get his approval.

If for some reason you just need to befriend that guy (whom, remember, is working), test the waters I suppose. Play it by ear.

Now that doesn’t mean you should stay away from him/her. As I said, it’s a mostly boring job. If you need his/her assistance for any reason (you need a spot, help with an exercise, help with a routine, etc.), please go ahead.

Don’t chat up anyone else.

The same thing applies for other customers at the gym. If you’re there with your friends, feel free to chat, but please don’t bother anyone else. Gym time is, with many people including myself, a time of peace and meditation. One of the reasons I love going to the gym so much is that I go to a very zen place when I’m lifting weights, listening to music.

I’m particularly anti-social, but trust me: there’s nothing more obnoxious than having some dude you don’t even know trying to spark up conversation while you’re trying to do your workout. You’re probably not going to make friends with that guy; you’re more likely than not just interrupting his groove. Talk to him when you’re done.

Don’t hit on girls, either. A lot of girls (and guys, too, obviously) are there to be hit on, but you cannot identify which ones are there to be attention whores and which ones are there to work out. Save yourself the trouble and just don’t hit on anyone. The gym is not a bar.

I think that’s it for now. Remember these rules and respect them. If everyone followed these rules, nobody would hate going to the gym. It’s up to you whether you want to be the guy who makes working out a better experience, or if you want to perpetuate the “gyms are full of douchebags” paradigm.

Steve is a cunthole. Don't be like Steve.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Bodybuilder’s Honest Thoughts On Crossfit.

This one goes on for a while. Apparently I have a shitload to say about this topic.

I should probably begin this post saying that though I don’t currently practice it, I’m no stranger to Crossfit. I was there when it first reached Mexico, did a couple of the very first WODs, and personally knew the people who brought it here. I also helped my brother, for whom I have nothing but respect, open a Crossfit gym, and assist coached for the first five weeks after its opening. Did many, many WODs, including a couple of benchmarks. I do know Crossfit.

That being said, I can start saying why, though I very much respect most of the people I know who practice and have passion for Crossfit, I can’t really say the same thing about the discipline itself.

These amazing bodies weren't made solely in Crossfit gyms. Sorry.
Like any fitness discipline, its value is gauged by the results it yields, but this isn’t really a great way to gauge something like Crossfit, and here’s why. Most people I know who practice it often do have great physiques and could crush me in terms of fitness any day of the week. If that was all the information I provided you, you’d think Crossfit is fool-proof. However, here’s the thing: not one of these guys—not one—started doing Crossfit from the couch. What this means is that all of them had prior experience in regular gyms (which by the way the community refers to as “Globo Gyms”, referencing “Dodgeball” in a condescending and frankly sad attempt to demonize the competition), and had already developed good to great bodies through regular exercise.

Yes, they definitely became much more fit through Crossfit, and some of them improved their physiques with a good diet, but you know what? That shit can be done with any discipline if enough intelligent effort is applied.

In terms of the fundamental parameters of fitness, there is absolutely nothing special about Crossfit. Every single base with which it works is a repackage or reword of classic bodybuilding dogmas that aren't popular enough.

This seems like something that would be obvious, right? Yet it isn’t. Crossfit trainers cleverly explain to any new member how Crossfit differentiates to “Globo Gyms”. This is an attempt to snare guys who want to get fit without going to the regular gym because the regular gym didn’t give them any results, and Crossfit will.

You know why Globo Gyms (henceforth referred only as “gyms” because that Globo shit drives me crazy) don’t yield results as often as Crossfit does? Because there is no fucking ‘beginner’s lesson’ to regular gyms whereas everyone gets a crash course on their first trip to a Crossfit gym. If people walked into a regular gym knowing what's what (the purpose of this blog), there would be no problem.

Almost everything Crossfit claims makes it better than regular gyms is a shameless lie that takes advantage of the new members’ ignorance of regular gyms and how the human body works. These are the things Crossfit offers that—they claim—don’t apply to gyms:

Remember kids! If you passed out, the workout was effective!
1. Functional movements instead of isolation movements. Remember how bodybuilders never heard of squats and pull-ups because we only sit on machines and curl our arms? Probably not because that shit isn’t true. Everyone in the fitness world knows functional movements work and their benefits.

2. Constantly varied. No routines. Remember how bodybuilders do the same shit at the gym all the time? Right, you don’t because that's also a lie. In order to make muscles grow you need to change shit up every few weeks. Sure, you don’t change it every day like they do in Crossfit, but that’s because there’s no real reason to except to avoid “boredom”. In fact, I'm pretty sure a poor Crossfit trainer will only overtrain his/her gym members because of this.

3. Quick WODS instead of four hours at the gym. “You can go home in 20 minutes”. The only people who spend four hours at the gym aren’t going to the gym to work out. In fact, whenever I went to do a WOD, between waiting for the heat to start, warming up, having the WOD explained, and actually doing the WOD, athletes took about 1 hour or more to go home. That’s what I do when I do leg day.

4.  Everyone can do it. You don’t need prior fitness experience. This is true. It’s also true for everything in the history of the universe ever ever. There’s not one single discipline, artistic, intellectual or athletic, that doesn’t have an entry level and isn't about progression. I don’t know how this is a selling point.

5. It doesn’t make you bulky with huge ugly muscles. Who wants to be huge? No one who cares about big muscles except shitty monstrous bodybuilders, right? Big muscles, in Crossfit, are seen as a really bad thing because—get this—big muscles “serve no function”. Let that concept sink in for a second. It’s kind of a consensus in the Crossfit community that everyone in there can outlift a bodybuilder. I’ll get to the hilarious “Bodybuilders suck at Crossfit so we’re better than them” mindset later.

6. It really tires you out. I hate this. Yes, Crossfit tires you out almost to a fault. You know what else tires you out? Every fucking exercise in the world if you do it for enough time or without enough rest. How the hell is this a good thing by itself? Listen, if you don't get tired at the gym, regular or Crossfit, you're doing whatever you're doing wrong.

Undeniable proof that Crossfit has existed for centuries.
Now, like I said, I do know a lot of really fit, smart people who either share a huge passion for Crossfit or even own Crossfit gyms. So this isn’t me saying that Crossfit is garbage, because it isn’t.

However, for it to really have results you need to be particularly careful with your diet. Even more so than bodybuilding. A skinny guy can gain a shitload of muscle with a solid training regime and a so-so diet. A skinny guy isn’t going to gain any muscle at all with Crossfit and a so-so diet. In fact, considering the diet Crossfit uses (the Zone diet), no one is gonna gain any fucking muscle whatsoever. They’re gonna get stronger, no doubt, and might shed some fat very, very slowly—but they sure as shit ain’t getting any bigger. I know a lot of skinny guys who’ve been doing Crossfit for years and haven’t gained a pound.

But why would they want to get any bigger, right? What’s the point of bulging muscles? Well, the reason why this is an issue in Crossfit gyms is because big bulging muscles (pro bodybuilders) aren’t considered attractive in society, and lean muscular shapes (Brad Pitt) are. It really does boil down to that. Crossfit claims to be about fitness, but in truth it’s the vainest discipline that has ever existed (this coming from someone who’s actively defending a sport that’s almost all about aesthetics). It functions and exists purely because of vanity, which reflects on pretty much everything that goes on inside a Crossfit gym, even when “Leave your ego at the door” is supposedly a very important part of their philosophy.

Let’s talk a little about this vanity.

After a WOD you are encouraged to write your performance on a board for everyone to see. Why? They claim it is to track your progress but how the hell does writing it on the board serve that purpose? If you wanted to track your progress you’d do it on a tiny notebook because that’s only your business. Writing on the board only helps to compare your performance to everyone else’s and if you’re one of the elite, flaunt it.

This only leads to people lying about how well they did (I know this for a fact), or feeling inadequate in comparison to the more experienced athletes. And this has an even worse effect: newbs try too much too fast. When I helped my brother with coaching, I had to guard the weights like a gargoyle to make sure no one took more than they could handle (I remember this one ~140 lb guy who had been there for 2 weeks and tried to do kettlebell presses with 50 lbs because that was the prescribed weight).

Thus, the hilarious beginner-to-injury ratio Crossfit is famous for (pic linked a joke). Athletes who are admittedly great at Crossfit arrogantly conclude that doing something as all-encompassing as Crossfit so well would logically mean they dominate every fitness field. What happens then is a lot of injuries caused because of hubris.

It doesn’t stop there. Crossfit pros also conclude that being experts in Crossfit also turns them into sports medics, nutritionists, lawyers, builders and superheroes. I know there is a qualification test that covers a pretty complete albeit shallow list of things necessary to become a certified Crossfit trainer, but it certainly isn’t enough.

You're also very, very likely to walk into a Crossfit gym to find half the population doing their workout, and chilling after doing it, shirtless. They'll probably feed you some bullshit about doing it because it's hot and because the workout they just did is so hardcore they'd sweat a lot, but everyone knows exactly what's going on. Say what you will about regular gyms, but at least they have the decency to ban shirtless workouts because it's unhygienic and frankly kinda gross.

Not to mention you might as well have a big tattoo on your chest that says "Look at me! I'm a giant douche!"

"I'd like to thank Greg Glassman!"
But here’s a cool ideal: Crossfit isn’t something you do for the sake of Crossfit. You do Crossfit as an addition to any other sports you like to perform. You play soccer? Surf? Basketball? No problem. Being proficient at Crossfit makes you sort of a “Jack of all trades” (*cough* and master of none *cough*) and would immediately make you better at your sport of choice.

Yeah except . . . yeah this isn’t ever the case. I don’t know anyone who does Crossfit for anything other than becoming better at doing Crossfit. You don’t do Fran in under 5:00 to be a better Quarterback, you do Fran in under 5 minutes so next time you can do Fran in under 4 minutes. Again, nothing wrong with this—I just feel the need to point out the incongruity.

I am aware that a lot of pro athletes, including NFL players and for some reason a lot of MMA fighters do Crossfit. I have no doubt it helps them as training but I’d be legit surprised if I saw any kind of stat that proved that NFL players that train with Crossfit perform better than players that train in a regular gym, like they’ve done for the last 60 years.

Having gotten that out of my magnificent chest, let me go into why I think Crossfit works now, and is probably not a passing fad. Crossfit does have a huge, HUGE benefit that regular gyms can’t claim: it is great as a social experience; more so than any gym could ever hope to be.

The reason why so many athletes become so easily attached to Crossfit as a sport, and become really loyal to their gym and trainers is because trainers are encouraged to treat them like friends, and trainers in turn encourage athletes to treat others as friends with respect.

I love the gym, but am completely aware of how shitty it can be. A lot of the people there are either cocky douchebags or detached Hulk-wants-to-be-left-alone assholes (I fall in this category). Coaches are rarely very helpful or patient, you have to wait sometimes to use a specific machine, etc.

But in Crossfit, this is almost unheard of. In just a few weeks of Crossfit I made a lot of friends, and not just gym friends—I mean “let’s hang out and go to the pub” friends. The fact that everyone, from the pro trainer to the noob grandma, are in theory doing the exact same WOD, helps create a very welcoming and fantastic sense of community and camaraderie.

"Let us pray the Dirge of Fran, Brothers."
For people who are insecure about working out, going to a Crossfit gym where they know they’ll be welcomed and will never ever be ridiculed for being too weak or too small or too fat, it’s a goddamn godsend. Insecure people find there a home, and it’s also an amazing tool of motivation. Feeling lazy today? I’ll go because I’ll see my friends there. It definitely keeps people going, loyally.

The problem, though, is that this has a dark side. Crossfit becomes so welcoming to everyone, from big gym converts, to skinny couch potatoes, to insecure overweight girls, that it almost begins turning into a cult. Is cult a strong word? Not really; the whole thing becomes borderline creepy. There was a point that I wanted to freak the fuck out because Crossfit became the center of every goddamn conversation that happened in my social circles.

Every. Single. One.

Worse still, all these conversations are almost scripted. They’re always the same. There is so much circle-jerking going on in Crossfit gyms I wonder why the mats aren’t permanently stained with d*ckcheese. It completely becomes about “Us” and “Them”. Or, more accurately: “Us” versus “Them”.

“We the Crossfitters are the Elite. We are the fittest on Earth. They the globo gym brutes are ugly monsters. They can’t reach their own assholes to wipe. There is no point in doing anything other than Crossfit. If you want to run a marathon, don’t train for a marathon—do Crossfit Endurance or you won’t finish. Are you just jogging now? That’s okay—better than nothing, while you return to Crossfit. The only reason anyone who doesn't do Crossfit has huge muscles is because of steroids. Why do you even want to have huge muscles? What’s the point?”

All of these are actual quotes I’ve heard. I’m not making this shit up, believe it or not.

Then there’s this.

The ignorance almost gave me an embolism.

See? I’m not making up this “Us versus Them” mentality. I don’t know what ignorant and talentless moron drew this (I found it ages ago and had to save it because it was so hilariously infuriating; it even had the artist making some bitter "Enjoy your steroids!" comment) but it reflects the Crossfit frame of mind to a t. It's also weirdly sexist. "A woman beat you? Ha! What a loser!"

There’s a whole practice about inviting bodybuilders to perform WODs to show how non-functional they are. There’s even a DVD where they invite a Chiefs linebacker to compare his performance, which obviously doesn’t measure up, like that is somehow a testimony of Crossfit’s superiority.

Probably because the pro NFL athlete isn’t as fit as the average Crossfit athlete, right? Yeah they really want you to believe so. How the shit would someone who’s never done Crossfit measure up to someone who’s been doing Crossfit for years? It’s like Ronnie Coleman challenging your mom to see who has bigger arms. It’s a retarded gauge. It makes zero sense, yet it’s always taken seriously. I’d love to see the 150lb Crossfit superstar stand behind the defensive line in an NFL game and not get filleted. They don’t talk about that detail, of course.

Holy shit.

Pictorial representation of how the Crossfit
community sees bodybuilders.
Okay so I’ve written a goddamn critical doctoral dissertation here, so I can’t really get away with saying “I have nothing against Crossfit” at this point, can I? I guess being a brute Globo Gym bodybuilder who was for years surrounded by Crossfit trainers and athletes gave me a lot to criticize. Thorn in my paw, I guess.

I do want to stress this, though:

Though I don't think it's anything special, I don’t really have anything against Crossfit as a discipline. My problem is the community it creates.

The mindset of Crossfit cultists becomes so ignorant and one-sided, not to mention mindlessly critical of every other fitness discipline they see as threats, it’s borderline psychotic.

The truth is that, as a sport, you could do a lot worse than Crossfit. You’ll find in there a welcoming community, a workout regime that will never bore you, coaches whose jobs depend on being helpful and friendly, and of course physical results.

Sure, results you could also get in the gym, and quicker, but the truth is that big gyms aren’t for everyone for a million reasons, and Crossfit pretty much is for everyone. The unbelievable growth of Crossfit all around the world isn’t an accident and most likely isn’t a fad. People stick to it because, even if they don’t see huge results, they like doing it and spending time at the box with new friends.

But I really, really wish The Cult would stop with the fucking unnecessarily aggressive antagonizing. It irks me. I find it irksome.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

7 Common Noobie Bodybuilding Mistakes To Avoid.

Basically this will be a quick review of all the other “Bodybuilding 101” posts I’ve done thus far.

As I had said before, bodybuilding at any level is a tough cookie. If it wasn’t, we’d have many more muscular people walking around. I think that it’s only tough when we don’t really have enough information to help us avoid the pitfalls that make 90% of noob weightlifters quit. If we know what we’re doing—and more importantly what we shouldn’t do—bodybuilding is easier than you can imagine.

So here you are, looking to get bigger, and here I am trying to show you the stuff I’ve learned during my own yet unfinished journey. In yours, you’re surely going to face at least seven evils, so let me try to prepare you for all of them (is this badass motivating enough? Feeling like a fantasy hero yet?).

In order of how they’re probably going to come, here they are.

1. Impatience.

Shit. You’ve been working out really hard during these last few weeks, and what does that asshole sitting on your bathroom floor tell you about your weight gain? Only four goddamn pounds! Fuck that thing. Fuck all of this. It’s not worth it.

Don't let this asshole control your life.
Well, isn’t it? You have to think it through. You had to know you weren’t going to immediately hulk out (though again if you do things right you’ll feel you have), but it's too much effort for such measly gains. The only thing left to do is evaluate your routine and be completely sure that you are doing things right and then be patient. Do it right, and your muscles will grow.


2. Losing motivation.

There are a million things that can make you lose motivation. You're not seeing enough gains. Your stupid friend says you look like a douchebag. You don't feel like yourself anymore. Whatever it is, you need to make sure if all this hard work for a larger body is really worth it. Generally, it is. Trust me.

You're most likely to lose motivation because you're not as big as you wanted to be when you first imagined yourself hitting the gym. Like I said in another post, this is my absolute golden rule:

Don’t look forward to the moment you’ll be monstrous; look forward to the moment you’ll be bigger than you are now. It’s not far away at all.

It’s as easy as that. Every few pounds will be 100% noticeable and not only to you but to everyone else. All you need to do is to keep working until that moment when you notice you’re really changing (clothes not fitting, constant comments from others, etc.). If you do things right, you’ll be seeing those changes much sooner than you think.

Another thought. A lot of people frown upon semi-muscular guys wearing XXS t-shirts just to look bigger. Does it sound douchy? Yeah. Is it douchy? Maybe. But honestly, if making yourself look bigger through placebos will keep you motivated, go ahead and buy the smallest goddamn shirt you see. When you're bigger, your muscles will speak for themselves under an XXL.

3. Shitty diet.

You might have started eating more than you ate before, and that is great, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating enough to grow. Always remember the nutrition post and review what you’re doing with your diet to be completely sure you’re eating enough, because here’s the thing: if you are eating enough, there is absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t gain weight. So here’s the pro tip:

If you’re not gaining any weight, the first thing you should review is your diet. If you’re 100% certain you’re eating enough go right ahead and fucking eat more.

4. Overtraining.

This is very common for people who begin enjoying exercise and see their muscles grow. It’s easy to assume that more exercise would logically equal more muscle, but this isn’t the case, as I said in this post, your muscles grow when you’re asleep, not at the gym. Your muscles need rest to grow, so if you keep assaulting them, you won’t give them a chance to recover and your gains will stop.

So the advice to give here is to hold your fucking horses and let your body rest. If you try to accelerate growth by spending 10 hours at the gym, that guy who’s intelligently lifting less than you will soon be bigger.

5. Too many supplements.

I like to blame/credit the cartoons we saw as kids for the ideal of a supplement, and the jokes we hear as adults for their bad reputation. We used to see cartoon characters take some pills andinstantly become hulks. I know we consciously know this isn’t in any way possible, but there is a part of us who’d like to believe it is, if only in some capacity.

I know this is true because supplement companies like to hang onto that fantasy. If you read the labels of things like Muscle Asylum Project products, you’ll see blurbs like this gem:

“For individuals devoted to building 21-inch guns, growing a 50-inch chest, benching 4-plates, forcing yourself into an XXXL shirt, and living the life of a bodybuilding freakshow.* [Actual Quote]

Yeah, you fucking wish it was this easy.
*statements not reviewed by the FDA.

Doesn't that sound fucking great? Of course it does but with bodybuilding supplements, "Too good to be true" is a mantra you have to repeat to yourself. These guys are catering to our little fantasy of almost immediately transforming into a muscular freak from drinking some magic serum. It’s important that you don’t buy into that because taking too many supplements is not only very expensive but also dangerous.

While there are supplements that will definitely help you safely (we’ll discuss them soon), it’s important you don’t just take every pill you see the GNC rep recommending. This leads me right into problem number 6:

 6. Not enough supplements.

Here’s the truth: supplements are extremely useful, as supplementation. This means as an non-imperative addition to a solid diet and exercise regimen. There is nothing—not even the very dangerous steroids that do create Kai Greenes and Ronnie Colemans—that will instantly make your muscles grow.

But that doesn’t mean you should steer away from all supplements. I generally like to recommend that you start your bodybuilding experience (to say, the first 8 or so weeks of training) without supplements because 1, you don’t need them at your current size; 2, you’re better off learning how to diet properly for now.

However, once you’re past that initial phase of your training and you’ve put on a few pounds, it’s definitely recommended that you do begin exploring and experimenting with safe supplements like whey protein, creatine (which I personally have never used, but has many proven anabolic benefits), multivitamins, et al.

If your gains have stopped, and you’re currently staying away from supplements altogether, it’s a good idea to begin looking into them. They’ll definitely help. My favorite site for reviews is this. Bookmark it.

It’s extremely important that you research and read reviews for everything you decide to put in your body.

I had a very bad experience with a supplement once, and I’d hate to see it happen to you.

 7. Not enough rest.

You think it's a coincidence lions are big? No sir!
Not an extension of overtraining, because even if you are only training the 60-90 minute workout that’s recommended, it won’t help much if you don’t get enough rest. By rest I don’t mean every passing moment when you don’t have a dumbbell in your hands; I mean sleep.

8 hours of sleep, even if they have to be aggregated through naps, are necessary for your body to grow. Do your very best to get enough sleep.

And that is it. Remember all these tips because they’re pretty much the only real mistakes you could be making that will stop your gains at this point. Remember this:

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with your body. If you’re not growing, you’re doing something wrong.

See you for the topic-specific posts starting now!