Training volume vs intensity; what matters is what works; the connection between ethnicity and bodybuilding talent; and phytochemicals.

I want to offset some reduction in training intensity by increasing training volume. Won’t that work?

Perhaps, depending on how much offsetting you do, and in what context relative to your overall training.

The most gifted bodybuilders, especially when drug-assisted, apply volume training throughout their physiques, and prosper greatly on it. But this approach doesn’t work for other bodybuilders.

Typical bodybuilders can, however, benefit from moderate increases in training volume for short periods in just a limited area of their physiques. This is when prudent specialization routines can be helpful.

For example, a boost in your arm training volume for six weeks once or twice a year, while keeping training volume low for the rest of your physique, can work well. But if you boost training volume for most if not all of your physique, it won’t work.

When you specialize on your arms, for example, use two exercises for your arm flexors, and two for your triceps.

For your triceps, as an illustration, use the parallel bar dip, and an isolation movement such as the lying triceps extension. I prefer a one-handed dumbbell movement for the isolation exercise so that you can readily use the most natural wrist position—the one that has the handle vertical at the bottom of each rep, in this case. Doing it one-handed should also enable you to apply more focus, and allow you to use your disengaged hand to assist a little if you can’t complete the final rep without assistance.

I’ve never seen any articles on professional bodybuilders that promote the training routines you recommend. How can I trust your advice?

Test it yourself.

If you can make good progress while following the routines of the pros, you don’t need the guidance I recommend unless you want to reduce the time you spend in the gym.

But if you’re a typical, drug-free bodybuilder, you won’t make much if any progress on the pros’ routines. Don’t persist with routines that don’t work for you.

During my youth I was pretty much as obsessed with bodybuilding as it’s possible to be—I was consumed by it, and my life utterly ruled by it.

I tried the training methods of the big names in the 1970s and 1980s, but the methods didn’t work for me (because I’m genetically normal, and have always been free of bodybuilding drugs). Those methods also didn’t work for countless other genetically normal, drug-free bodybuilders from that era.

The training methods of today’s big names don’t work for most bodybuilders now, because most bodybuilders are still genetically normal and drug-free.

The big names have changed over the years, of course, but the training methods the big names use today have much in common with what Arnold and Sergio used in the 1970s, for example.

Only later on did I understand the roles genetics and drugs play in the achievements of big-name bodybuilders.

If you don’t make much if any progress from following the sort of routines that the pros use, try a different approach—along the lines of what I promote. Apply it properly, and you’ll make good progress, if not outstanding progress.

The key phrase, though, is “apply it properly.”

Abbreviated training routines won’t help you if you choose the wrong exercises for you, if you use incorrect exercise technique, if you don’t train hard enough, if you train too often, if you don’t fully attend to the components of recuperation, and if you don’t build sufficient strength.

I could give the exact same training program to identical twins—who, of course, have identical genetics and ages—but one could make terrific progress, while the other makes no progress.

The first twin trains hard and consistently, is an exercise technique perfectionist, eats well every day, rests well during the day, sleeps well every night, and strives relentlessly to build strength. But the other twin loafs in the gym, skips workouts, eats poorly, doesn’t sleep well, and doesn’t strive to build strength.

Both twins follow the same routine of exercises, but their implementation of the overall program is worlds apart, and that explains why one progresses well, and the other doesn’t progress at all.

Do you think that ethnicity is related to bodybuilding talent?

I don’t have any hard figures to say either way. There have been bodybuilding champions from most ethnicities, and some from a mixed gene pool.

The biggest factors behind bodybuilding success are desire for physique improvement, availability of equipment, training know-how, dedication and persistence, and genetic good fortune for bodybuilding.

In many countries there are such major survival issues that bodybuilding is an irrelevance. There, even men who have inherited freaky genetic potential for bodybuilding couldn’t care less about building muscle because they have much more important matters to deal with.

Some specific groups of people are naturally more inclined to have genetics predisposed to the development of large muscle mass—stocky, thick-boned structures, with long muscle bellies, for example. But some other groups, generally speaking, have no propensity for developing large muscle mass because they have lanky builds, thin bone structures, and short muscle bellies.

Rather than compare yourself with others, focus on doing the best you can with whatever you’ve inherited, which means training in a way that’s appropriate for you, and applying yourself with great dedication and persistence.

If youngsters were assessed in order to determine what they are physically most suited to, then encouraged to pursue activities most suited to them individually, that would lead to a much greater degree of high-level achievement than if the youngsters select activities without any consideration for what physical characteristics and advantages they have.

For example, if a son of parents who were both exceptional distance runners was encouraged to pursue distance running himself, chances are that he would have far greater competitive success than he would if he pursued bodybuilding, shot putting or hammer throwing.

Conversely, if a young man whose father was an elite shot putter and whose mother was an elite hammer thrower, was encouraged to pursue bodybuilding, chances are that he would have much better than average genetics for building muscle. But if he had pursued distance running, chances are that he would never have outstanding success there because he’s unlikely to have inherited the characteristics required for elite-level distance running.

The catch in this strategy, though, is marrying physical potential with a sufficient interest in a matching activity, the right training methods, and the level of dedication to training that’s required.

For example, if someone with freaky genetics for bodybuilding has no interest in bodybuilding, that potential will never be realized.

What are phytochemicals?

Chemical compounds that occur naturally in plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes—but processing reduces their supply. The term usually refers to the chemicals that seem to be healthful.

There are many phytochemicals, for example, carotenoids (in carrots), resveratrol (in grape skins), tannic acid and catechins (in tea), and flavanones (in citrus fruit). One of the reasons why you should eat plenty of plant foods is so that you obtain plenty of phytochemicals.