Over the years I have toyed with many types of training templates. From bodybuilding splits to powerlifting, from Strongman to HIIT, I have spent countless hours playing around with many different training modalities. Only to try and configure the best training program around that produces the best results.
What I have found is that every style of training can work if you use it properly. The style you choose should depend on what your goals are.
If you want to be the next Mr. Olympia, well you should be following some kind of bodybuilding split.
If you are a college wrestler and want to get strong as hell without putting on additional bodyweight we need to take that into consideration.
If you are a regular dude that wants to get jacked and shredded but still have the ability to play some pick-up basketball you can do that too.
Your goals will dictate your programming.
However, I am about to share with you the type of program we use at Tutela Training Systems in Clark, NJ that have proven to produce incredible results time and time again.
But first let me kick it off with my story and how I developed this system and got into training in the first place.
Ambition to become the king of arm wrestling
My training career truly started when I was 13 years old. I was challenged to an arm wrestling match back in the 7th grade by a kid named Mark. Mark was probably about half my size, but the kid used to destroy everyone in arm wrestling. I took the challenge and he literally laughed at me mid-match, right before he nearly ripped my arm off. All the kids that surrounded us laughed hysterically, which left me humiliated, pissed off, and more importantly, determined.
The next day I walked my ass down to the Modell’s about a mile from my house and purchased one hexagon 20 lb. dumbbell . 13 years old and about 140 lbs, I was barely able to carry this thing back to my house. And naturally, I did the one exercise that I knew, for probably about 20,000 reps.
The bicep curl.
I was determined to never lose another arm wrestling match in my life. I challenged Mark almost every day at school, and took beating after beating. Until, 8th grade came around and about 9,000,000 bicep curls later, I was finally able to beat that SOB!
That was my first taste of getting stronger and seeing first hand results.
Welcome to high school football
The summer going into my freshman year of high school my friends talked me into playing football. Only a few of us 8th graders were committed to the 8-AM workouts at the field house that summer.
This was my first experience in a true weight room environment and it was incredible.
Like all typical teenagers, I was immediately attracted to the bench press. So, I benched, I curled, I squatted, leg pressed, deadlifted and cleaned, with what was probably the worst form anyone has ever seen. Luckily, despite the fact that I had no clue what I was doing, I never got injured and actually saw some results. That summer I grew from 150 lbs-165 lbs.
Making the game
After four years of lifting for high school football, I started to get even more serious with my training after football my senior year. The first book I bought on training was Triple H’s “Making the Game” where it took you through his workouts with all kinds of exercises and pictures.
I spent hours in the gym, literally 3 or 4 a night.
I knew very little about training at that time. So what I did was follow a typical bodybuilding split. Monday chest and tri’s, Tuesday legs, Thursday back and bi’s, Friday shoulders, arms and calves.
Any of you that have been following me for a while know that I wouldn’t typically recommend this type of split for any genetically average hard gainer like myself. But initially I did make some progress, until I eventually plateaued and couldn’t get any bigger or stronger.
During a family get-together that year I was talking training with my cousin and mentor, John Alvino, who is one of the best in the strength and conditioning business.
I remember being so excited and proud to tell him about all of the work I have been putting in.
When I did his reply was simple.
“You gotta stop wasting your time.”
I was shocked! What the hell do you mean?! I have been putting in hours almost everyday!
“Come to my gym on Monday” was all he said.
The start of a new career
The name of my cousin’s training facility was called Iron Athletes. As soon as I walked in I was immediately hooked. He had all types of equipment that I had never seen before.
Naturally our first session together was leg day. And naturally, I puked all over the place and nearly passed out.
Regardless of all the puke and outer body experiences I loved training there. The atmosphere, the music, the guys pushing you…everything about it. I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
While training at Iron Athletes I started training more like an athlete, using less isolation movements and more multi-joint stuff. Military presses, squats, deadlifts, bench presses and all kinds of assistance exercises that I had never used.
Over the summer I went from 175 lbs. to 190 lbs! I was also the strongest I have ever been in my life, benching 305 lbs, squatting 400 and deadlifting 425!
It wasn’t until then that I learned the benefits of combining powerlifting, bodybuilding, bodyweight and strongman training. This combination known as powerbuilding gets you big as hell and brutally strong!
The birth of Tutela Training Systems
After working under John Alvino for nearly three years I decided to open up my own training business. So in March of 2009 I opened up TTS as a contractor at a private gym in Clark, NJ.
From 2009-2012 I became obsessed withnot only getting people bigger and stronger but getting them shredded. During this time I played around with a lot of metabolic conditioning stuff. If you’re unsure what that is, Met Con is strength training exercises put together in a circuit to create more of a conditioning effect.
Typically we did 3 full body days per week.
Although these workouts are extremely effective for getting people lean, they are also pretty taxing and become tough to recover from when you do them long enough.
I found that most guys who are more advanced and already strong don’t typically enjoy this style of training; however beginners and women tend to love it.
This is due to the fact that advanced trainees have more strength and muscle, which requires a greater demand for oxygen. This makes it much more taxing with a much greater conditioning effect for advanced guys and girls.
The biggest bang for your buck
The way I train myself and most of my clients and athletes now after opening my brick and mortar location in 2012 has been proven to give us all the biggest bang for our buck!
That is using an upper/lower split most of the time with a powerbuilding type of template. On off days you can do your conditioning work. You can use met con, HIIT, sprints or play a sport or martial arts on your higher intensity days.
On low intensity days go for a walk, bike ride, hike, swim or do some type of low level activity to break a sweat.
These days I typically strength train 3 days per week. One week is upper, lower, upper and the next week is lower upper, lower.
I do martial arts twice per week, sprint once per week and do something with low intensity once per week.
I also walk everyday first thing in the morning every day on an empty stomach to get my head right for the day and to burn some fat.
I have used this split for myself and for many clients over the years and have had tremendous success.
Putting it all together
As you can see from my training experience throughout the years, I didn’t do everything right. I actually had no idea what I was doing at first. But I did the work and saw results.
Once I stopped seeing results I tried something new, then I saw more results. One that stopped I tried something new, and saw more results!
My point is if you’re constantly looking for the next best thing, you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t. You’ll waste more time and energy looking for the best training program rather than just putting in the damn work.
The time may not be perfect, you may not be sure what to do, you may think there is a better way… but if you just stop thinking and DO THE WORK you’ll find that is what actually produces results. Regardless of how shitty your program looks on paper.
Just get in the trenches and start doing SOMETHING!
That’s the only way you’ll find out how to achieve real-world results.
I hope this helps guys.
Drop a comment below or shoot me an email to let me know what you think.
These days, there is a huge misconception with what it actually means to train for athletic performance.
You may scroll through your Instagram feed and see some “performance” gurus that crawl around all day mimicking every level of the food chain in the animal kingdom.
Some coaches will have their athletes do about 7 hours of mobility work and send them home.
But is this what you should be doing if you want to look like a shredded MMA fighter or NFL wide receiver?
Having worked with athletes and regular guys that want to get jacked and shredded with the strength to back it up for the last 12 years, I have experimented with every training program under the sun.
Through experimentation on my clients and myself over the years, I put together a blend of the best stuff from each training modality that I have played around with.
Regardless if you are still a competitive athlete or just someone who is looking to get strong, jacked, lean and athletic, following the steps I am about to give you can help get you to your goals faster.
Listed below are the steps you can follow to finally achieve the look of a strong, shredded athlete with the health and performance to back it up!
So let’s get started.
Just before the start of your training session is a perfect time to work on your flexibility and SMR (Self Myofascial Release). For your flexibility work I like to address severely tight areas (typically the hamstrings, glutes, hip rotators and flexors, pecs and lats) and the muscles that we will be training that day.
In the past static stretching prior to training was frowned upon. However I have been doing this for years and never had an issue. In fact, some of my clients who were extremely tight were able to get into certain positions they normally couldn’t have after some light static stretching pre-workout.
SMR is a great way to relax tight musculature prior to training. Foam rolling and using a lacrosse ball are my go to just before I begin my warm-up. Typically I prescribe massaging the back, glutes, hips, I.T. bands and quads for most of the people I work with.
DYNAMIC WARM-UP/CNS ACTIVATION
I have talked about the importance of a thorough dynamic warm-up plenty of times in previous articles so I won’t beat a dead horse. Just make sure you go through a body weight circuit prior to the start of your strength work. This will help increase your heart rate and core temperature, improve mobility and flexibility, lubricate your joints and put you in a safer state to train in.
A good dynamic warm-up can take 10-15 minutes.
Once you complete your mobility circuit then I like to prime the CNS or Central Nervous System just before your strength work.
JUMP, THROW AND SPRINT
Now is a good time to work on your power. Since you are in a warmed-up, fresh state this is the best time for your explosive movements.
Jumping, throwing and sprinting aren’t just great for developing power. They are also some of the most athletic things that you can do. Use different variations of all three.
Doing some type of jump, throw or sprint just before your strength work is also great for priming your CNS before you hit your heavy lift for the day. Just be sure that you don’t turn this into a conditioning routine and fry yourself out. That’s the opposite of what you want.
Typically on jumps and throws you can do about 3-5 sets of 1-5 reps. For sprints you can do 3-5 sets of 10-25 yards tops.
Here we are focusing on strength. Which means we are focusing on either increasing weight or reps you accomplish with a particular load over the course of your training cycle.
For the most part, your big lifts like the squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, chin-ups and their variations are programmed here.
Keep in mind that your big, compound movements are what’s going to help get you strong as shit and pack on the most muscle from head to toe. But keep in mind that if you are a little older and/or beat up you don’t have to stick strictly to a barbell. You can certainly use variations of each movement that can be done a bit safer.
For instance, if you have access to specialty bars at your gym you can replace a barbell squat with a safety bar squat. Or a straight bar deadlift with a trap bar.
Otherwise, you can use a dumbbell or kettlebell for exercises like the goblet squat instead of using a back squat. Or you can stick to a neutral grip DB press on an incline instead of a straight bar bench press if you have beat up shoulders.
The possibilities are endless. The important thing is that you are mimicking each particular movement pattern with a variation that you can handle.
PUSH, DRAG, CRAWL, CARRY
The best way to look like an athlete is to do athletic shit. Jump, throw, sprint, carry, drag, crawl and lift heavy.
Pushing or dragging a heavy sled is tremendous for lower body strength. It’s also a great way to hit the lower body without loading the spine.
Another great thing about sled work is that you won’t get sore from it since there is no eccentric component.
This way you can drop a B.M. without any additional discomfort. Lord knows we can all use some more comfort during a B.M.
Working in different crawls like Gator Walks and Bear Crawls are great for the core and shoulders so make sure you work those in too.
Loaded carry’s like Farmers Walks are great for developing the muscles that make up the core, hands, forearms and can pack on slabs of muscle to the traps.
Once you’re doing all that then the one missing piece is to play as often as possible. Softball, basketball, martial arts, biking, hiking, tennis, swimming…whatever. Just be active, play and compete as often as possible.
Being competitive is great for overall well-being.
Competition is a fun way to get your “cardio” in and is great for testosterone production, which will help you build more muscle and burn more fat.
Plus, it’s never a good look to walk around all jacked but look like a total schlub as soon as your buddy throws you a basketball.
Take advantage of the summer and all of the activities that go along with it.
If you want to look like an athlete then you better be eating like one. If you aren’t sure how to do that then check out this article I wrote that shows you how to eat for health and longevity with the physique to back it up.
Now that you know the steps to get on your way to looking and performing like an athlete, it is up to you to follow them.
I hope this article helps you achieve the results you’ve been looking for. Have fun and do whatever it takes to look and perform the way you have always wanted.
Kick ass this summer, guys!
On December 17th 2016, Bernard Hopkins will be fighting one last time to finish out an incredible boxing career.
If you don’t know his story, I recommend you check it out.
In a nut shell, he came from nothing, always got into trouble, ended up in prison and after spending quite some time in jail, he decided he would never go back.
Boxing was his way out.
This month his storybook career comes to a close.
But here is the inspiring part… Not only did Bernard Hopkins make something of himself… Not only did he change his mindset to find a way out of prison and become a boxing legend…
But he will now be fighting his final bout… at the age of 51.
Look around at most people you know in their 50’s.
How many of them tell you “I’m too old to workout”?
How many of them tell you “Once you get to be my age you won’t care about the gym anymore”?
Hell, I hear that from guys in their 30’s!
And I cringe every time I do.
Guys that are only 35 years old say that they “don’t have time to train”.
You don’t have time to train?
So your health, longevity, vitality, energy, wellness, mobility, strength and appearance mean nothing to you?
What kind of example does that set for your children and others around you?
You have to understand that if you don’t take care of yourself physically, you will never become the best version of yourself mentally.
Guys like Bernard Hopkins prove that age is truly just a number, as long as you take care of your body and continue to work on yourself throughout your life.
Your health needs to be prioritized, so stop making excuses about your age and start putting in the work.
Now, you might say “well, Bernard Hopkins is a professional fighter, he’s an outlier”. Maybe you have a point. But what about the “normal” people I have worked with over the years that drastically improved their lives that were well into their 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s?
Guys like Paul Kaplan who at 49 years old, lost 100 lbs, packed on more lean muscle than he’s ever had in his life and has 10 x’s more energy than any twenty year old I have ever met.
Or women like Maureen Melody that started training for the first time in her mid-fifties and lost 45 lbs. of fat, drastically improved her blood work and felt better than she ever had in her life.
Come into my gym and these people will tell you first-hand how training improved their lives.
It is sad to see that as most people age, they stop caring about themselves. In so many ways, they stop living.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and medication has become the norm, combined with a laundry list of other issues.
That is not the way life is meant to be!
Invest the time and money into yourself, so you can do the things you want to do in your life. Do not just work, retire and die! Stay active, eat well, and enjoy your life as you age.
Both guys still train and look better than guys over half their age.
When you are that age would you rather be fit, traveling the world and playing with your grandchildren, or lying in bed shoveling pills down your throat?
Sickness and medication do not have to be your destiny.
Common does not mean normal, so do not accept illness as something that is completely out of your control. Obviously there are things people are faced with that could not be avoided.
However there are many cases where illness and disease could have been prevented, so stack the odds in your favor.
You get one life. One shot to become the person you want to be. And you can become that person at any age. I don’t care if you are already in your 70’s, it is never too late to reinvent yourself.
And that begins with changing your mindset.
Accepting that you are responsible for your outcome and that no matter how beat up you are you can always change.
Hopefully if you are reading this you are just as inspired by Bernard Hopkins as I am and realize that if he is 51 years old and still competing at the highest level possible, against guys a fraction of his age, then you can get to the gym for a few hours a week.
Stay active, stay strong and control your destiny.
I’ll catch you guys next week.