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Recovery time with Sean Casey





Most athletes and even the weekend warrior often ignore a vital factor when it comes to optimizing their health and performance. That one factor is....recovery. You will often hear discussions about how much was lifted, how much fat was lost, etc but rarely will you hear about how many hours of sleep is ideal or what needs to be done to optimize recovery.

To discuss recovery methods, my friend Sean Casey is one of the best guys to go to. He spends a ton of his time doing research in the field of human performance and provides honest and efficient information via his website www.caseperformance.com. He also hosts a popular talk show (http://strengthsmarts.com/) that is based on strength training and fitness. So let us try to learn more about recovery from Sean.



                         
Arnav Sarkar (AS): Hi Sean, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. To begin with could you tell the readers about your background and how you got involved with this field? 

Sean Casey (SC): First off, I would like to take a moment to thank you for asking me to join you here at Fitter Strength; it’s a true honour anytime someone, especially one of your honesty and integrity, asks me to share my viewpoints on physical performance. 

Right off the bat, I must state something right away -- I do not consider myself an expert or guru by any stretch of the imagination. These words are thrown around way too much in this industry. (I strongly encourage everyone to read The Guru I’m Not for my full thoughts on the misuse of these words). That being said, I have been fortunate to have been mentored by some of the best coaches in the industry. A similar statement can be said for my academic instructors as well. I could start a list of names, but there have been so many who have truly touched, taught and inspired me these past 10 years, it would be an endless list! Please know that my knowledge and experiences are the reflection of those individuals who have invested the time to teach me. Credit goes to them.

With respect to my background…There were 2 things that really set me on the path I find myself on today. First, my interest in human performance sparked at quite a young age thanks to the fictional character, Rocky Balboa. As a young child, I remember coming home after school, watching Rocky IV, and then going into my basement to bang out pushups, situps, pull-ups, etc …. The second key influence that influenced my passion for physical activity was my parents. Growing up, they never allowed my siblings or me to get a Nintendo, Sega, Playstation or any other sort of gaming device; instead we were cruelly forced to go run, jump, wrestle and play games outside. Of course I say that tongue-in-cheek because in retrospect, it was probably the best thing they ever did for us.

I participated in sports in high school, and to maximize my abilities, I spent countless hours in the weight room/on the practice floor. Did I always train smart? Of course not; however, the improvements I saw in myself, from both a physicaland mental standpoint were incredible. 

After high school, I continued my education at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, graduating with degrees in both Nutritional Science-Dietetics and Kinesiology-Exercise Physiology. During that time period, I learned the science behind how the body worked and responded to various nutritional and exercise interventions.


AS: Can you share with us your coaching experience?


SC: During college, I was an intern strength coach with the UW-Badgers Strength and Conditioning Department. I also spent time interning at the International Performance Institute in Bradenton, FL where I had the opportunity to assist with the USA U-18 National Men's Soccer team. I also interned and later worked as a physical preparation specialist at Athletes' Performance. While at these locations I had the opportunity to work with both amateur and professional football, soccer, baseball, golf and tennis athletes.
I've also been active in the field of sports nutrition, where I’ve consulted with a wide variety of organizations including both elite (NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars) and amateur athletic teams.



AS: Let us straight away get into the topic of recovery, do you feel that most people neglect proper recovery between workouts because there is very little emphasis placed upon it by most information media like websites, magazines, etc, or simply because they are too lazy?

SC: I think there is a combination of reasons why proper recovery is often neglected and you hinted at them both in your question above…

Regarding the social media…

I personally feel that there is a lack of emphasis placed on non-nutritive recovery techniques (NNRT) by the training magazines, websites, etc. I highlight the words “non-nutritive”, because there are TONS of articles detailing various nutritional plans to speed up recovery between workouts. Heck the biggest problem one faces with respect to nutritive recovery techniques is figuring out which articles are legitimate or which are straight crazy talk! However, the number of articles discussing NNRT (ie- stretching, light activity, hydrotherapy, etc) is relatively minimal.

I think the lack of articles on NNRT can be traced back two things. First, take a peek at the sponsors of these media outlets? What are the major types of advertisements you see plastered across most magazines. Yep, you got it right; they’re virtually all nutritional supplement companies. When a publication is being paid big money from a supplement manufacturer, of course you’re going to see a ton of articles on how these products, and nutrition in general, are beneficial to the recovery process. However, when was the last time you saw ads in these magazines for companies promoting ice baths, basic stretching, etc?  Relatively speaking, they’re pretty rare. I personally feel that this is because little profit is to be gained in this area for manufactures. Most NNRT can be done at home for free. Thus, you don’t see the advertisements, and publication bias, to publish articles supporting the companies who pay big money to appear in magazines. Ian king once said, "...the methods that don't include much equipment sales also don't get much airplay relative to the ones that equipment distributors can have their unofficial "authors: spruik" and I think he's right.

Yes, there are some NNR devices on the market today such as stretch ropes, foam rollers, etc. Occasionally you will see a promo for them. However, like I said above, there are far fewer of them vs. supplements advertisements. While on this topic (foam rollers, etc) I’m going to quickly share my thoughts on the purchase of them. I feel merit for actually needing these products can be questioned….

Think about it, do you really need to buy these “special designed” overpriced products to get the job done when you likely have something at home that will do the same? For example, let’s look at foam rollers which, here in the states, have been a big hit as a form of self massage. Regardless of if you think they’re helpful or not (Ian King and Mike Nelson do not care for them, Mark Verstegen loves them) do you really need to purchase one of these devices or can you use something at home like a tennis ball, any cylindar shaped device, or even your own thumb? On a similar breath, there are companies that sell stretch ropes. However, do you really need a special “stretch” rope or can you simply use basic rope or even a rolled up sheet from home?

The second reason, as to why I feel that there is a lack of articles on this topic, is related to the fact that people are always looking for quick, popular and “sexy” approach to accomplishing a task (FYI - I don’t mean that type of sexy!). Take a few supplements, eat healthy foods that adorn magazine covers, etc. are all “sexy” approaches to recovery. Do a NNRT such as a cold water plunge – Trust me, there is nothing sexy about shivering in water, and feeling sensitive body parts shrink while others pop out!   

Regarding the idea of simply being “lazy”…

I don’t necessarily know if it’s neglected because people are too lazy. Rather, I think it is related to the fact that people THINK they do not have time for it. For instance, many people work an 8 hour work day, train for 45-70 minutes (either pre- or post- work) and then go out with friends/families or simply “chill” at home. The idea of doing more work, on top of their already busy schedule, simply SEEMS to be too much.

When working with these individuals, I like to simply sit down with them and map out their daily schedule. In doing so, he/she usually finds that they have a lot of free time in which recovery modalities (stretching, light activity, hydrotherapy, etc) can fit into their daily schedule. The one thing I like to remind people is that many recovery techniques can be done quite easily in the comfort of your own home. Fill a tub up with water and lay down in it. If you have a stationary bike, place it in your living room, and while watching TV, ride it at an easy pace for 15 minutes and follow it up with simple stretching. You see, it really doesn’t have to be hard or challenging to work this stuff into your daily routine.

I also like to remind people that physical training is only one component of getting the body they desire. Your body does not grow when you train, in fact your BREAKING your body down when you train. You can train, train, train and train some more, but unless you give your body the opportunity to recover between sessions, it’s all for naught.


AS: Would you agree that the first step to optimizing recovery is to ensure that one gets enough deep sleep every night? How many hours do you feel is optimal for most? Plus any tips to sleep better for those who have disturbed sleep?

SC:  Without a doubt, I think sleep is a huge component of the recovery process. Sleep is even more important when training hard as staleness/overtraining syndrome could be an issue. For those of you who are not familiar with overtraining syndrome, basically it develops when you’ve been training real hard and you haven’t given your body enough time to recover. As a result, your body shuts down from both a physical and psychological standpoint. One’s muscles are sore for extended periods of time following a training session, training performance suffers, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, depression/anxiety, etc. By reducing any of the factors that contribute to it, I feel one can decrease the likelihood of developing overtraining syndrome.

The prevention of overtraining syndrome is more of the long term effect of getting adequate sleep. On the short term side of things, lack of sleep is going to immediately affect your performance in the gym. Yes, you may be able to get away with it here and there, but string together a few short nights of sleep, and your lifts, running times, etc are going to plummet. Furthermore, based off my experience, people who get inadequate sleep are more likely to get hurt while training. They’re tired, not focusing on the task at hand, and their form goes down the tube. Combine poor form with heavy weight and you have a great recipe for injury.

For people who have disturbed sleeping patterns…
I recommend a couple of things. First, if you’re not already exercising 3-4x/week, start NOW! I feel the greatest benefit of exercise, with respect to quality of sleep, is the role it plays in mental health. Numerous scientific studies have shown that both acute and chronic bouts of exercise relieve stress.  Now let’s think about one of the main reasons why people have trouble sleeping… They are stressed out about something that is occurring either at their work or in their personal life. If we can decrease their stress levels through exercise, improved sleep quality usually follows. Paraphrasing Kevin Costner, in the movie For Love of the Game, exercise “clears the mechanism” with respect to stress.  

The second benefit of exercise is straight forward; physical training wears down the body. Think of the last time you did hard manual labour during the day; How well did you sleep that evening? My guess is that you probably slept like a rock.

For those who have trouble sleeping, despite getting plenty of exercise, I recommend a couple of things. First, 
back off the stimulants (caffeine, etc), especially during the evening hours. Furthermore, establish a pre-bed routine for yourself. Quite often people have a pre-workout routine that they complete on a daily basis prior to training (listen to certain music, visualize, etc). In doing so they get their mind “geared in” toward what they hope to accomplish. As a result, their body senses that it’s “go time” in the gym. On a similar breath, establish a pre-bed sleep routine. Maybe this means opening up a book, watching the evening news, having a healthy piece of food, going for a relaxed walk underneath the stars of the night, etc. Once you find the combination that best fits your schedule, stick with it. That way when you do task “A”, followed by task “B”, your body says, “OK, it’s time to sleep now.” However, if you’re continuously doing random tasks each night, prior to going to bed, I believe that you’ll find it much harder to fall asleep.

So what is the optimal amount of sleep? Good question. I think this varies from person to person. My recommendation is to get as much as you need to feel rested and not need a “caffeine boost” to get you going for the day. If you’re constantly needing  >9 hours of sleep to feel rested, it may be a sign of suffering from some undiagnosed health issue so I’d recommend seeing a doctor. Looking at the current research on this topic, it appears that between 7-8 hours of sleep is optimal from a cardio-metabolic health perspective.


   

AS: Okay, I know that you are big time into reading the latest research findings, is there any new finding on recovery or any other topic related to strength and fitness training, that you feel the readers might not know about but is one that they will benefit from?

SC: I’m usually all over the map with respect to what I’m researching. Let me break down my recent research into different sub-categories.

1) Exercise….
At one time, it was believed that static stretching prior to working out was a good thing. However, within the last 15 years or so, this viewpoint shifted as more and more research came out showing that pre-workout static stretching reduced vertical jump, running (both endurance and sprinting) and maximum strength performance.Intense stretching (13 stretches of 135 s each over 33 min) have been shown to decrease force capabilities for up to 1 hour post stretch. As a result, the use of static stretching has been dropped from many warm-up routines, including that of my own. However, a little while back, my thoughts regarding this were challenged in an article by Ian King entitled, “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Stretching – 15 minutes to (joint) freedom!”. Ian has long used static stretching in his athletes training programs with success (Check out the “Ian’s Training Myths” portion of my interview with him). Thus, I was forced to re-evaluate my opinion and thoughts on the subject…

As Arnav alluded to above, I’m a huge fan of research. After listening to Ian’s thoughts on them, I carefully paged through the research regarding them and found a huge caveat in the research  ..Most of the studies that have shown decreased muscular performance included ONLY static stretching in their warm-up routine or just prior to performance testing. Although there was an exception, most of the research indicated that static stretching did NOT reduce muscular performance when it was followed up by a dynamic warm-up that activated specific muscles that were to be used in the workout. Taken into account that there is some evidence that pre-workout static stretching may reduce the risk of muscle strains, the best warm-up protocol may be something of the following nature:

Light jog (or similar activity to increase muscle temp) —>static stretching —> dynamic/skill specific warm-up —> sporting/training activity.
(Note: I wouldn’t deviate from that order as interchanging the static stretching with the dynamic stretching has shown to decrease performance)

Long story short, after stretching out your glute (butt) muscles, perform some glute bridges to re-activate them. Give those muscle groups 3-6 minutes of rest and then start performing your training routine. If time is short, I’d only perform the dynamic warm-up/stretches. However, if you can include some static stretching prior to the dynamic warm-up, you may decrease the risk of muscle strains. And yes, I must be 100% honest; I’m still playing around with this concept myself to find the protocol that works best. Maybe in my next interview, I can give you a specific routine that I’ve found most effective!

With respect to diet…

Meal frequency has been a topic that I’ve found very interesting. During the last 15 years, popular media has seemed to support the idea that in order to best maximize weight loss and body composition, one should eat a bunch of small meals every couple of hours vs. the traditional 3 large meals (breakfast, lunch, supper) per day.  However, the research regarding this dogma is quite flawed. In reality, when kcal and macronutrients are accounted for, weight loss does not seem to be affected at all regardless of meal frequency.

With respect to supplements…

Although not new, I beg the question, why are people still buying nitric oxide/muscle pump supplements?!?! Recently, there have been multiple studies showing that supplements similar to NO Explode™, Super Pump 250™, naNOVapor™, have no effect on increasing blood flow to muscles or acutely increasing performance. A similar thing can be said for a product very similar eNoxide™. The primary ingredient in most of the muscle pump supplements is arginine or arginine-AKG. There have been countless studies disproving the effectiveness of these ingredients when ingested orally. They do not appear to improve the “muscle pump” or increase muscle protein synthesis. Only one study has shown arginine-AKG to have any sort of effect on performance. However, there are many flaws in the study design (too many to list here – will be in an upcoming article on my site) and in light of all the other research, I do not agree that the study supports the use of the supplement.



AS: I guess supplements are still popular only because in the minds of consumers it is still perceived as a shortcut to success. I mean who would want to work hard when you can "have it all" by just swallowing a capsule or drinking some powder? Of course, the reality however is that one has to work hard whether they do or do not use supplements.


Moving on, on your site you give away some really high quality free ebooks that cover various topics. Can you tell the readers a bit about them and how they can get their free copy?

SC: Free… Who said anything about them being free?!?!?  Thanks a lot Arnav, now I got to give them away for free otherwise I look like a bad guy or make you look like a liar to the readers of this fine magazine!!!

Just kidding; for those who visit my site, you’ll see that basically all of the stuff on my site is free. I do not require a paid membership based website for one reason: my goal is to help as many individuals as possible reach their goals. I recall what it's like having to be a college student trying to cough up enough money to cover the week's food bill. Paying for a $30-40+ site membership was simply not an option. The last thing we want to see is someone being unable to access the article section or reading those ebooks of this site for similar financial reasons. If you look at the mission of CasePerformance, not once does it say "...and make a lot of money..." Rather, my goal is to assist you on your journey towards peak performance.

(However, I do humbly accept donations. Please CLICK HERE to find out why these are needed to maintain the site.)

Anyhow, back to the ebooks…. They can be obtained for free by signing up for my MONTHLY newsletter which you can access by CLICKING HERE . I want to stress the fact that this is a MONTHLY newsletter. I personally can't stand sites that seemingly fill your email inbox up with newsletters every other day. The three Ebooks I give away are

1) Post Workout Recovery Modalities – See below

2) Human Growth Hormone: Does it Enhance Physical Performance






In this E-book you will learn:






·                     Does growth hormone (GH) work for muscle growth and fat loss?
·                     Are there supplements to increase GH?
·                     Are high volumes of high intensity exercise needed to increase GH?
·                     Should we even worry about GH levels?
·                     Does GH slow down the aging process?
·                     Almost 40 studies referenced.


3) Be A Savvy Consumer: Do Your Homework!


In this E-book you will learn:






·                     Many Supplement Forums and Retail Sites Contain Misinformation
·                     Evaluating Dietary Supplements
·                     Propriety Blends: Deception or Protection
·                     The Almighty Placebo Effect: Are you wasting money?
·                     Pubmed for Dummies: Just a few minutes to mountains of research
·                     Research 101: How to read and interpret the research
·                     Learn the secrets of not getting outfoxed by the the supplement companies
·                     Can you gain 20 lbs of muscle in 3 weeks by taking this supplement?
·                     The joke of Supplement Forums

Of the 3 ebooks, I’m most proud of the Be A Savvy Consumer: Do Your Homework!  I wrote it back in early 2010. I go through a step by step process on how to evaluate supplements and using science in general to evaluate fitness claims purported by the popular media. It was my goal that this ebook would help others learn how to teach themselves rather than have the wool pulled over their eyes by those simply trying to make a quick buck.



AS: Phew! You got me a little worried there in the beginning, ha ha. 




Now I wanted to specifically talk about the book on recovery. You have discussed various methods of recovery like hydrotherapy in detail. Could you tell us a bit about it and how one can go about applying it?

SC:  Sure no problem, the use of hydrotherapy, which involves getting into a tub of hot or cold water has been around for ages. I remember reading stories about ancient civilizations using these techniques for their “rejuvenation” effects. The theory behind immersing oneself in water is that it improves circulation. The pressure exerted by the water on one’s body helps to “squeeze” waste products away from the previously worked muscles. Additionally, hydrotherapy also increases cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart during a given amount of time). As a result, the body’s ability to deliver nutrients to muscle tissue (post exercise) may be enhanced via increased bloodflow. For instance, sitting in water at sternum level height for 15 minutes, it has been found that the heart’s ability to pump blood increases by up to 133% that of normal levels. This study was done in water that was similar to one’s own body temperature. You can also manipulate the therapy by using either cold or hot water baths.

I love water therapy and it is free to the end user (assuming you have access to water and a tub). Based off my experience I’ve found that cold water immersion is superior to the other types of water immersion. I feel immensely stronger and less fatigued following this technique vs. the other ones described in this article. Personally I like to go 3-5 minutes of cold water immersion (CWI) at 50-59ºF, followed by another 5-15 minutes immersed in cool water (~80 ºF).

I don’t ever go more than 5-8 minutes of cold water immersion just because I’m paranoid about excessively blunting the inflammatory response. Although excessive inflammation is a bad thing, acute inflammation appears to kick off the anabolic response in muscle tissue. Thus, I primarily use CWI because I get an analgesic effect during this time period and it helps to me to feel more rejuvenated for my next workout. Then I follow it up with water with temps similar to my body because it helps “accelerate” the inflammatory effect vs. the blunting effect seen with CWI.

I know what you’re probably thinking right now… what the heck does accelerating the inflammatory response mean? When the body gets cold, the inflammatory process shuts down. In contrast, water similar to one’s own body temp “accelerates” inflammation by pushing waste products away from your muscles and back through the circulatory system. Additionally, it increases cardiac output, possibly enhancing flow of nutrients to muscle tissue.

Other topics covered in this ebook are listed below.

Post Workout Recovery Modalities Ebook:


In this E-book you will learn:






·                     Does jumping in a vat of cold water really help you recover?
·                     Can you alternate between cold and hot water (contrast therapy) for better recovery?
·                     Are hot tubs (hot water immersion) a good idea post training?
·                     Can these techniques eliminate the gains you worked hard to gain in the gym?
·                     Do those new compression garments really help?
·                     This is based on science and almost 50 studies are referenced!


AS: What about the role of nutrition in recovery? How would you plan postworkout meals for an athlete and for the regular person?

SC: Nutrition is huge and its importance cannot be understated. Including healthy foods, post exercise and throughout the day overall, greatly speeds up the recovery process. The analogy I always like to tell people is, “You can’t build a mansion with straw and mud when the blueprints call for brick and mortar.” Likewise, you can’t obtain the body you desire without giving it the proper building blocks for success.  

Post workout, I like to take 20-25 grams of protein and 20-60 grams of carbohydrates. (Please note those are general patterns; depending on the individual needs, I fine tune that recommendation). I have a hard time eating solid food immediately following an exercise session. Thus, I usually make a shake that I can drink. Within a few hours of completing the workout, I usually follow it up with a solid food based meal.

I can’t say I really plan postworkout meals and snacks differently based off if someone is an athlete or not. Rather I try to plan the postworkout meals based off the individual specifically. Things to consider include, “How intense was the exercise session?”, “Is the individual trying to gain/lose weight”, “Is the individual training multiple times per day?”, etc, etc. A more thorough look at the science, etc that I use when planning post workout meals can be found below:






One final note that I’d like to make regarding post-workout meals… Although research clearly indicates that animal proteins are better for muscle growth/recovery vs. plant proteins, there has not been any research that has directly compared muscle growth/recovery in athletes after consuming various types of animal proteins. Therefore, I can’t say with 100% certainty that one form of dietary animal protein will lead to greater gains in muscular strength and size vs. that of another source (ie- dairy vs. chicken vs. beef, etc). In theory, eggs and dairy (particularly whey) would be the best option, but again, no research has clearly indicated this to be true.

Arnav Sarkar: Continuing on our topic or recovery, what about hard stretching after a workout?


Sean Casey: What do you mean by “hard stretching”!?!? Right now I’m getting a mental picture of those medieval torture device known as “the rack” where someone’s arms and legs are strapped in and pulled in opposite directions.

Actually, stretching is my favourite way to recover following a workout (although hydrotherapy is a close second). I like to use a combination of both dynamic and static stretching. Basically I’ll do the dynamic stretch, except hold the end range of motion for 8-15 seconds. I have found that this technique by far is the most effective one for my body.  In fact, if time is short, or I don’t have access to a tub for hydrotherapy, I’ll only use this technique. 



AS: And Massage?

SC: You know, massage is a funny thing. Personally, I’ve never found it to be effective immediately post workout. Although some people really like to “foam” roll, etc, it doesn’t do anything for me.
I think where massage has the greatest benefit is when someone has muscles spasms, etc. Due to some orthopaedic issues, the musculature surrounding my hip will spasm up. In these instances I’ll apply direct pressure to the point of spasm with whatever object I have laying around the house (tennis/baseball, soup can, or even my trusty thumb and fingers). Following one of my more recent surgeries, I saw a massage therapist multiple times as I had trouble getting the muscle to relax through stretching alone. After working with him for a few weeks, my range of motion started to return quickly and I was able to get back on the training floor.


I must stress the fact that any recovery protocol you do involving massage should be followed up by stretching of some sort to maximize benefits.

Also, I’ve heard some horror stories of people going to massage therapist and having horrible experiences. Usually this was because the therapist would get too aggressive during the treatment and further exacerbate the symptoms. Thus, make sure that you’re going to a reputable and qualified sports massage therapist if you choose to go that route.


AS: Do you feel that lighter workouts can also be great for recovery between hard workouts? What type of activities do you think can constitute a good light workout between intense sessions to facilitate faster recovery?

SC: I’ve always been a fan of performing light workouts on the day following a hard workout or sporting event. I kind of stumbled upon this when I was in high school athletics. The day following an American football game, my body was always stiff as a board and hurt. On one of these occasion, I decided to go in with my buddy to the weight room because he needed a spotter; I knew no one else would be in the weight room and didn’t want him to get hurt. I was feeling kind of lazy just spotting him so I decided to play around with some light dumbbells in-between his work sets.  I quickly found that by playing around with the dumbbells, my joints and muscles relaxed considerably. After this experience I played around with a whole bunch of various workout protocols to help the process along. The protocols that work best for me usually are something similar to the below example:

1)  Dumbbell Complexes (use light weight, something you can do for 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps with ease); Ride stationary bike 15-20 min, etc.

The intensity of part 1 should be great enough that you work up a little sweat. However, you should not feel real tired or fatigued at the end of it.

2) Follow it up with Active-Dynamic stretching; similar to what I described for post workout stretching. However, I usually find it effective if I hold the stretches for 20-30 seconds.   

3) Time and resources permitting, I may jump in a pool for a little bit…. I do this last part  more for mental relaxation than physiological reasons. Remember, if the mind is not at peace, the body will quickly collapse.


AS: Okay, let’s talk a bit about program design. I know that you yourself are a great example of a skinny guy who put on substantial amounts of muscle mass and strength? Care to share some of your secrets for the benefit of the readers?

SC: To adequately address the question, I gotta address it from both a training and dietary standpoint.
With respect to training…

Use large compound movements. The lifts that I always make sure to include in the workout involve squats, deadlifts, barbell rows, push press, pull-ups and shoulder presses.

Now the method one uses can vary considerably with respect to reps and sets. Some individuals like to go with high reps/fewer sets such as 3-4x10, etc; others like lower rep like 8x3, 6x4, 5x5, etc. Although I’ve had success using both high and low rep sets for adding mass, I’ve found a combination of the two works best. For example, something of the following nature…

Upper Body Workout Example
A1) Bent Over Rows (5x5)
A2) Bench Press (5x5)
B1) Pull-ups/Lat Pulldowns (2x8-10)
B2) Military Press (2x8-10)
C1) Bicep Exercise of choice (2-3x8-12)
C2) Tricep Exercise of choice (2-3x8-12)

Lower body day, you could do something similar. You’d go a little lower on the reps for your primary lifts, and then higher reps on your secondary or support lifts.
(Please keep in mind that above is just an example of one day. I tend to stay away from posting training routines online. I do this as I like to know the person/individual I’m working with and tailor the workout to their needs. So please interpret the routine as that – a general generic one for someone with a couple years of experience).


With respect to eating….

EAT, EAT and EAT some more. I hear a lot of people talk about working hard in the gym, eating a healthy diet and still not being able to put any weight on their body. Quite often, when reviewing their diets, I found that they were eating like someone trying to lose weight! The diets usually involve a couple protein shakes, a handful of nuts, salads, grilled chicken breast, etc. Don’t get me wrong, these are all healthy foods, and if you were looking to lean out, we’d focus on food choices similar to these. However, you gotta down food if you want to gain size and if you’re not putting on weight, you’re not eating enough. It’s that simple.

When adding food to your diet, I recommend adding healthy fats (olive, avocado, coconut), lean protein, and relatively “clean” carbohydrates. Everyone has a different interpretation of the word "clean" when it comes to food so to make things clear, I consider clean carbohydrates to be non concentrated sugary carbohydrates. I also want to stress the word "relatively" because I am not one of the people who is so anal that I think having a bowl of ice cream or slice of cake here/there will cause your doom. In the past, when working with individuals, I used to cut out virtually all sugary stuff for people looking to lean out or maintain. However, if they were of a higher body weight, or looking to throw on mass, I would allow concentrated sources of fructose such as 100% fruit juice just for additional kcal reasons. Although it does have the fat promoting fructose sugar in it, I'd rationalize it by saying that you're still getting some of the health benefits of the whole fruit. However, my stance on this has changed over time as I read more and more research as well as discuss the topic with individuals I greatly respect in the field. Regardless of the situation, I now do not feel that concentrated fructose items (such as soda, fruit juices, etc) are advantageous to the diet and will hurt physique and other issues.

I’d like to point out another often overlooked fact about fructose; they may influence the formation of Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). These compounds are extremely effective at screwing up many bodily systems including metabolic, neurological, and musculoskeletal. In fact, in vitro test tube studies have shown it to 10x more effective at producing these compounds than glucose (the main type of sugar found in white potatoes, rice, bread, etc). Animal studies also indicate that fructose promotes AGEs more so than normal glucose. Human studies still must be completed on this aspect of dietary fructose.

So between the 2 points above (lipogenic nature, AGE formation), I stay away from concentrated sources of fructosePlease note that I did not say "stay away from high fructose corn syrup" at any point in that discussion. I feel that regular sugar and HFCS are basically the same and special emphasis should be put on the word "concentrated." Some people see the word fructose and get all bent out of shape that ANYTHING containing fructose will make them fat; In time they've eliminated every fructose containing item from their diet including FRUIT. In general, I think that is a waste and foolish. Depending on the individual and their goals, 2-4 servings of fruit/day is a good idea as numerous health benefits are present in them; Just don’t go gangbuster when eating the fruit and end up eating 10 servings a day. (As a FYI, I’m referring to WHOLE fruit; not fruit juice which has had many of it’s health benefits stripped away. Also 1 serving of fruit DOES NOT equal 1 piece of fruit. Due to genetic manipulation, most fruits are “super-sized.” Thus, a single apple, banana, etc, may actually be closer to 2 servings of fruit.).  When working with others, this serving of fruit varies depending on the goal of the individual. All things in moderation.


Which brings me to my next point… Fructose vs. Glycemic Index

The glycemic index has gotten a lot of attention and in a way it should. However, I feel that certain whole foods with higher glycemix indexes are fine as long as they’re accounted for in the context of the overall diet and your training goals. For instance many people get bent out of shape about a white potato. A white potato will not kill you and it only has 1.75 grams of Fructose per 1 large potato -3-4 ¼” diameter (1.25 g of free fructose; 0.5 g fructose as part of sucrose...for those keeping track). When I had my best mass gaining experience, I had a lot of potato and meat based meals close to the completion of my workout. (Note - Since these meals were post workout , and I didn't want to slow down Amino Acid absorption,  I did tend to to limit  fat in the meals; however, I do recommend that you receive ~35% of you total kcal from fat). The other thing I did was grind a lot of oatmeal up and put it in my shakes. It’s another clean carb source for mass gain and I think a better option than taking a lot of extremely concentrated sugary fructose sources.



AS: And what about fat loss? Could you share a sample program that you think the regular trainee who is not a competitive athlete and has maybe 3 hours a week to train can perform?

SC: With respect to fat loss, most of it is related to one’s diet. However there are some things you can do to help the process. Most of it comes down to performing a lot of work, using large muscle groups in a short time frame.

With a regular individual who has only a few hours to train per week, I usually like to train the full body in each workout. I tend to keep the rest intervals around 1 minute

Example Workout
A1) Barbell Bent Over Row
A2) Front Squat
B2) Pullups/pull downs
B2) Walking Lunges
C1) Dumbbell bent over rows
C2) Step ups

For each exercise, perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Keep rest intervals 45-60 seconds.

Also, I do not like the idea of doing 30 minute jogs. Rather, I prefer High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). For those of you who are not familiar with this concept, it’s basically performing as many reps as possible or going as hard as possible for 30 seconds then taking a couple minute rest before repeating. The workouts are super quick and very time efficient. Research has actually shown that they burn just as much fat in only a fraction of the time compared to Jogging or other activities of moderate intensity. Click here to read more of my thoughts on HIIT and see a couple sample routines.



AS: Have you ever done any stupid thing when training that you’d advise others not to do?

I’ve done plenty of stupid things when designing training programs for myself. More than I’d like to admit! For instance, while training for American football as a high school athlete, I still remember, putting in a hard training session in the gym, taking a 20-30 minute break and then going for a 2-3 mile run in the middle of the afternoon when it was hottest.

At the time I thought to myself, "By running for a couple of miles after a hard training session, under these environmental conditions, I will be less fatigued in the 4th quarter vs. my opponents." Of course in doing this, I completely ignored the “training specificity” principle.

Another moment of buffoonery on my part … During one of the first games football games of my junior year, the temperature and humidity were ridiculously high. Being that I naturally sweat like a horse, even when the temperatures are semi-cool, I was afraid of losing electrolytes via sweating and cramping up real bad during the game. Being the genius I was, I decided to mix 2-3 tablespoons of salt into a cup of water and drank it 1.5 hours before the game. As you could imagine, my body went into overdrive trying to rid me of all of the excess salt by forcing me to go to the bathroom. During warmups, I had to leave my team 3 times to urinate in the cornfield behind the stadium. I probably ended up more dehydrated going into the game than what I ever would have been if I just would have done my normal pre-game routine... What the heck was I thinking!?!  LOL

The final thing I’d recommend is to be careful with ridiculous training routines you see in bodybuilding magazines. Quite often, these are pretty ridiculous, and without the use of anabolic steroids, they will crush you! I found out the hard way a couple of times.

I could list more moments of idiotic training strategies, but I’m afraid I’d lose all credibility! The key thing is that I learned from my mistakes.



AS: Any final thoughts?

SC: Everyone screws up (as shown in my previous answer) and no one has all the answers. I think both of those facts are important to realize. Take chances, see what happens. If things don’t work out readjust next time. Keep your mind open to new thoughts and philosophies. However, be extremely critical of new ideas; don’t just blindly accept them. Understand why you’re doing what you do. Don’t just “show up” and expect results. And Finally – HAVE FUN! 



AS: Thank you Sean for sharing so much information with the readers, I really appreciate it. Where can the readers know more about you and how can they contact you?

SC: Thank you, it was a true pleasure to work with someone of your honesty and integrity. A special thanks also goes out to all readers. I truly hope the thoughts/experiences I’ve shared with help you reach your personal and life goals. You can get more information about me on my website- http://www.caseperformance.com/








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