Training For Hypertrophy: Charles Poliquin Seminar
If there is one single person who has taught me more than any other about the myriad of right and wrong ways to build muscle, it is Charles Poliquin. If you take the time to learn and appreciate the Poliquin Principles then your ability to understand how to make a person stronger and larger (remember that the two do not always go hand in hand) will be massively improved no matter how experienced you are as a trainer. I had 20 years of gym experience, and had been a competitive heavyweight bodybuilder, before meeting Charles and the penny really dropping as to the best and most effective ways to utilise resistance training principles.
It’s certainly not just me who thinks this. I have had conversations with notable figures such as professional bodybuilding guru Milos Sarcev, who agrees with me that Charles knows more about strength training and how to apply it than any man alive. The reason for this is pretty simple. Take a great brain, and then focus on strength, conditioning and optimising human performance whilst relentlessly working like a dog for over 30 years, applying both intellect, passion and imagination to all that you do. This is why he is the best. It’s almost straightforward in execution, but ******* hard in practice.
Despite this eulogy, I am no Poliquin acolyte. I don’t always agree with everything that Charles says, but I always damn well listen, and when it comes to strength training I always test and apply his advice and it has never let me down. We were very fortunate to have Charles give not one, but two seminars last weekend at UP Mayfair. The first was a private affair solely for my UP team, and the second was a sell-out few hours on Advanced Hypertrophy. What Charles outlined certainly was not for the faint hearted, and in this article are a few of his gems that had the audience all bouncing on their feet itching to get back into their gyms and start cranking up the intensity!
By the way, to borrow a favourite Poliquinism of mine, do not see the world through a straw. These are tips to be taken in isolation I’ll try and qualify a few points for sake of clarity, but if I had to explain and contextualise every point this piece would become an entire book! And please remember, these are just a few nuggets, those who attend a Poliquin seminar come away with a whole lot more each and every time they attend.
And finally, before we get to the good stuff, just this morning, 7 days after the Hypertrophy Seminar, I received an email from one of the attendees, Steve Trulglia, a guy who has been training seriously for a few years now and as a top professional stuntman is no stranger to hard work. I’ll give you a section of what he told me verbatim:
So I’m now two days into cycle 2 and my overall condition and size is visibly very different, which surprised me, but not as surprised as I am by the enormous increase in strength I’m experiencing. I have started using the red and blue Zanagen creams and any scepticism has gone. A bit of myofascial self work, and those creams, have given me the best arm pump size increase I’ve ever had. I would have expected results like this in a few months, not a few days!
Training For Hypertrophy: Charles Poliquin Seminar Selected Notes (Pt 1)
Please note that my own brief explanations / contextualisations are in italics and are my own views.
1) The number one factor holding back muscle growth is fascial restriction. If the fascial sheath is too tight then there is no room to grow. Think of the biggest bodybuilders -Tom Platz used to be able to put his legs into pretzel like positions, and Ronnie Coleman used to do the splits onstage! This is a massively ignored area of training for hypertrophy, and something I’ve already taken to focusing on by having all bodybuilding clients spend extra time on ART treatment.
2) Treatment modalities like ART can work well for fascial release, but look to the latest innovation in supplements and use topical creams by Zanagen. Poliquin views these as the biggest advancement in supplementation in the last ten years. I personally have used Zanagen creams extensively for the last 9 months and love them, especially on arms and deltoids.
Myself, Charles Poliquin, Derek Woodske, & Luke Leaman “relaxing” post workout in Arizona, 2011.
3) The fastest way to add slabs of muscle if you are an advanced trainee is to train a body part three times a day! This would be over a 3 way body part split, with each body part being trained on one day in every five.
4) The more resistance training sessions you perform in a given unit of time, the higher your protein synthesis.
5) Anabolic output is a function of training volume. So if you want to become as anabolic as possible, you have to train a LOT.
6) Multiple sessions in a day is the way to go, follow the law of the order of muscle fiber recruitment when structuring programmes of this nature (see below)
7) The 3 times a day sessions should be divided into heavy, medium, and light workouts. Although better to think heavy weights & low reps, medium weights and medium reps, and lighter weights and terrifyingly burning, searing, pumping reps. Time under tension is key, but we don’t need to go into that as this seminar was focused on advanced training for hypertrophy rather than the basic principles.
8) If you are training for hypertrophy rather than relative strength, make sure the first session has sufficient volume. 4 sets of 4 reps won’t cut it. 8 sets of 4 will.
9) Build up to training multiple sessions in a day. Start slowly with a 45 minute morning session and a 20 minute afternoon session, and gradually ramp up volume over the weeks so that it takes several months to hit three times a day sessions. You can’t jump into this sort of brutal training without taking the time to build your work capacity.
10) Don’t screw up the deload! Backing off is key with this type of training regime. Back off every third training cycle. This is a very common problem that I see with trainees attempting twice a day training protocols, let alone this brutal three times a day regime. It is all too easy to let enthusiasm run away with you, and many struggle with the concept of 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Let me tell you that this approach is much more akin to 1 step forward, half a step forward, 2 leaps forward, repeat!
11) During the deload you should leave the gym feeling that you could have done more work.
12) When training for hypertrophy, there is no one ideal deload training volume parameter. It can be as little as 20% of the volume of a regular single session, or as much as 40%.
13) When you do deload, and do it correctly, testosterone levels will actually fall, but free testosterone levels will rise. Think about this for a second, it means that you are effectively utilising more testosterone than normal during this period.
14) Anabolic drive is a function of neural drive, so ensure that neurologically you are operating at peak levels during a training session. Minimise pre-workout carbs, focus on the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine via the right foods (red meat and nuts are a classic Poliquin favourite) and pre-workout supplements. We discussed a range of supplements, and in my experience the best thing you can do is experiment with products and protocols that you feel give you the best neural drive. My own favourite approach, that is simply a variation on what I have learned from Poliquin, is to rotate between 2-3 products such as Alpha GPC, Poliquin Fast Brain, Poliquin Sinew Plex, caffeine, Glycocarn, whilst pretty much keeping a 3gm dose of acetyl-L-carnitine constant.
The second part in this Charles Poliquin: Training For Hypertrophy review will feature ten more points focusing on the importance and dosage for BCAAs, post workout recovery, and a couple of tips to optimise performance via a couple of very cheap and simple peri-workout supplement strategies that I have to admit were new concepts to me.