Ask Greg: Issue 104
Greg Everett

Stefanie Asks: Hi Greg. Great work here and on Robb Wolf's podcast... I listen while travelling on the subway. I'm currently working with varsity university athletes and using myself as somewhat of a guinea pig to test out different training programs and exercises. There seems to be a lot of talk regarding amino acid supplementation during training to enhance recovery and strength and muscle gains. What are your thoughts on this? Assuming that I, or my athletes are following proper diets (personally I am pretty much 'Paleo' eating most of my high GI and high carb meals following training and low carb, low GI at other times in the day) will amino acid supplementation be of benefit? What should I look for when choosing a supplement brand? Thanks.

Greg Says: Generally with supplements like this, I would say that unless your diet, sleep, lifestyle and training program are all completely dialed in, don’t bother because it won’t make a significant (or any) difference in the presence of shortcomings in the aforementioned elements.

Honestly I’ve never been impressed with BCAA or other specific amino acid supplementation with my athletes or myself. If you’re trying to lean out or gain weight, you can experiment with them pre-, peri- and post-workout if you’re interested, but the amounts needed to be potentially effective get expensive, so I think there are better things to spend your money on. You may also experience some GI distress at these levels, so don’t test it out before a big date.

Megan Asks: I work at a fitness facility where Olympic lifting is only utilized by a small percentage of members and trainers. We are lacking in bar care and knowledge about preserving our 3 Eleiko bars. Frequently, other trainers are creating programs for their clients that include abdominal rollouts with our Olympic Bars. Is this a huge misuse of the bar? How will it affect the bar structurally? I am looking for some correct information that I can present to my co-workers about correct and incorrect bar useage and why. I need backup!! Thank you.

Greg Says: Yes, it’s a huge misuse. I’m guessing your facility has other barbells that could be used for this; and more importantly, you can buy ab wheels just about anywhere for $15—why would you use an $800 barbell?

Will it actually damage the bar? Probably not. But in my opinion, it’s just stupid and there’s no reason to use a barbell at all for that exercise, let alone one that’s intended for high-end sport performance. The fact that they’re misusing it shows they have no respect for the quality of the equipment, which means they’re probably mistreating the bars in other manners also, so they should likely just keep their hands off of them entirely.

I would tell your bosses to invest in a few ab wheels, and if they’re not interested, I would just go buy a couple yourself and tell these trainers to quit screwing around. If they want to argue about it, you can tell them that using a barbell makes the exercise easier because the width increases stability, and that if they really want to challenge their clients, they should be using a proper ab wheel.

We don’t even use our Werksan bars for squatting here—we have other less expensive barbells for rack use. If someone took a Werksan bar out for ab rollouts, I would not be kind in my admonishment of them. Fortunately, we have trained people in this gym well and they know better than to try it.

Gwen Asks: I've been weightlifting for only 2 years and have had some successes in masters competitions. I am thrilled to have found a new sport to learn and love being a competitive athlete again after taking a couple of decades off from athletic competition. I realize all the basic principles still apply; however, I am aware (sometimes painfully) of differences in how my body responds now versus when I was younger. What advice to you have for training "not 18 anymore" athletes?

There is clearly increased interest in weightlifting at the masters crowd. The 2013 Masters Pan Am meet in June has 260 athletes registered. I love all the info on the website and the Performance Menu. Thanks.

Greg Says: Just like with young athletes, there is no formula for older athletes that applies perfectly to everyone. Two 40-year-olds can respond completely differently to the same training load because of differences in sleep, nutrition, lifestyle, work stress, and genetics. As you’ve pointed out, however, the older you get, the more slowly you will recover and the less volume you’ll be able to manage on average.

In any case, I usually recommend starting conservatively to establish somewhat of a baseline. Spend a couple weeks training 3-4 days/week with maybe 150-200 or so reps above 60%. If you manage that with no problems—i.e. you’re not hurt, you’re sleeping well, your bodyweight is what it’s supposed to be, you’re enthusiastic for training, you’re able to hit the weights you’re expecting to hit—then you can experiment with increasing both the volume and frequency as desired. This is really individual—you may feel better training with the same volume on more days/week, or you may feel better increasing the volume but staying at only 3-4 days/week. Again, you really won’t know until you try it.

You also need to dedicate even more time and effort into taking care of yourself with things like foam rolling, stretching and warming-up properly. These things are important at any age, but their importance increases as your durability decreases with age.

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