Whether they are corporate moguls, political leaders or Nobel Prize winners, in every walk of life there are individuals who have set themselves apart from others. Nowhere is this hierarchy of achievement so closely watched as in the world of sports. Thousands of books carefully chronicle decades of athletic bests. In 1912, Jim Thorpe, the winner of both the Pentathlon and the Decathlon at the Stockholm Olympics, was declared by King Gustav before the media of the day to be "the greatest athlete in the world." In the 1960s Muhammad Ali declared himself simply The Greatest, and ever since that day The Greatest is a title athletes in every sport aspire to.

In the shadow of every great athlete stands the strength coach. The achievements of these coaches are measured in gold and silver, yet few know their names. But as in every aspect of sports, bespeckled statisticians sit in moldy back rooms and comb the records to establish the "winningest" in the field of coaching. And in that world, The Greatest of contemporary strength coaches is Charles Poliquin.

Charles was born March 5, 1961, in Ottawa, Canada. He was the sixth of eight children and the only one to pursue sports. At age 14, Charles became one of the youngest ever to achieve a Black Belt. It was his karate instructor who first introduced him to weight training.

"One day I came to the dojo and I was the only who showed," recalled Charles. "My instructor couldn't see teaching karate to a class of one, so we spent the time lifting weights."

Charles never stopped lifting weights, and his career unfolded quite naturally from that point. He received his BSc degree in kinesiology and began coaching athletes before returning to his studies to earn a MSc in exercise physiology.

"I believe a college education is quite overrated," says Charles of his formal education. "That's the reason I don't put letters after my name—I don't believe it means anything.'1

Indeed, the most valuable education Charles achieved was on his own, outside the academic ivory towers. Early in his studies he realized that the majority of research in exercise physiology concentrated on aerobics. In order to find research on strength training, he had to turn to European journals and periodicals, particularly those from Germany. So Charles set about teaching himself German to complement the French and English in which he was already fluent.

One of the first research materials Charles tackled was Jurgen Weineck's book Optimales Training. The day he finished translating it he went to Canada's Sports Information Library only to find they had just received the French edition of it! Charles checked his own translation with the French version and realized he was doing a good job at translating—perhaps, he soon found, better than some others.

"Much of the important information in strength training comes from Europe, and what is available to English-speaking coaches has all been translated by a professional translator. However, the translator is rarely also a strength coach, and much of the information is misconstrued during the translation. Years of study and valuable techniques simply never make their way to English-speaking universities because of this!"

As Charles continued to study not the translations but the original texts of European research, his knowledge began to surpass that of his Canadian peers. He began lecturing at international conferences including those of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and Australian Collegiate Strength Coaching Council. His growing list of winning athletes created a rumor that Charles was being paid not by the athletes, but by the medals those athletes won, a rumor he says is not far from the truth. By the mid-1980s, when Charles retired from the collegiate coaching environment and began his studies for his master's degree, his reputation had already produced a waiting list of athletes anxious to train under his tutelage.

Today Charles is best known for his achievements with Olympic and professional athletes. He has coached 22 different Olympic sports and presently is the strength and conditioning coach for 120 world class athletes, including:

Myriam Bedard, Olympic athlete and World Champion in biathlon Marc Gagnon, World Champion and Olympic medalist in short track speed skating

Natalie Lambert, World Champion and Olympic medalist in short track speed skating

Nine Olympic medalists in the Lillehammer Olympic Games Charles' innovative methods are renown for getting results in months that other coaches achieve in years. And if an athlete is fortunate to work with him for years, the results are truly phenomenal. For example, Cathy Millen, World Women's Powerlifting Champion, increased her bench press from 281 pounds to 407 pounds at a bodyweight of 184 after following Charles' programs for 24 months!

Speed and power are what make champions. Charles is known worldwide for producing faster athletes. Faster starts allowed US speed skater Casey Fitzrandolph to step many times onto the World Cup podium and also allowed Canada to win both overall world cup titles in bobsled in 1995. Kate Pace had the fastest start when she won the World Downhill Ski Championships in 1993. Charles' acceleration techniques have produced world championship medals in alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, cycling, judo, karate, rowing, swimming and speed skating.

His impact has also been seen in the increasing accuracy of shots and throws in sports from ice hockey to American football and basketball. Use of his leading-edge energy system training programs—along with improved nutrition and effective supplementation—has made Charles a legend in athletic recovery techniques. His expertise is credited with allowing National Hockey League star Gary Roberts to return to the game after being written off by medical doctors.

In the world of bodybuilding, Bill Phillips, Executive Editor of Muscle Media, was the first to recognize the value of applying Charles' methodologies to the field of strength and mass development. Charles was quickly adopted as the magazine's strength guru, and in each issue he contributes articles and his column, "The Poliquin Principles".

The reason Charles has become so popular in the world of bodybuilding is that his methods work, and work fast. "Bodybuilders aren't the only athletes interested in hypertrophy—athletes in many sports require gains in size and strength," explains Charles. "The big difference is most of my athletes only have 10-12 weeks to get results. Bodybuilders are used to taking years to gain the same degree of muscle size and strength, so to them, my methods seem more like miracles!"

In addition to achieving fast results, Charles also brings a systematic approach to training. "I think bodybuilders are getting tired of the Weider instinctive training method by which anything goes," says Charles. "Bodybuilders may dress like clowns, but a lot of them are smarter than many of the magazines give them credit for. I know this from the letters I receive. They are hungry for new information and convincing explanations of why they are being told to do something."

Now, with the publication of The Poliquin Principles, Charles brings his miraculous techniques to the world of strength and physique athletes. With this book Charles Poliquin provides the rationale behind his workouts and opens the door for a new age of intelligent bodybuilding.

Kim Goss Strength Coach

Senior Editor, Dayton Writers Group


A thorough discussion of the most basic elements of designing a workout

A The Poliquin Principles brings you an intelligent approach to bodybuilding for faster, bigger gains. Jhe first step to designing the perfect workout for you, is by manipulating your reps and sets. (Garrett Downing)

Different from magazines, which can be perused as easily from back to front as front to back, books are nearly always read from the beginning to the end. So I assume you are just beginning your indoctrination to my Poliquin Principles. If you're a strength athlete or a bodybuilder, and especially if you are under the age of 25, I suspect you're looking for the secrets to success in this first paragraph. I won't keep you in suspense for long. By the end of this chapter you will be considerably more sophisticated in your approach to training, and you will also be able to choose one of my workouts to fit your immediate needs. In this chapter I have included bodybuilding programs for the beginner, intermediate and advanced trainer, as well as a routine for weight loss without aerobics that utilizes the principles of my German Body Composition program. Throughout this book you will see the components of many other programs that I have shared to help you reach your training goals in the most efficient manner.

A Charles Poliquin works with athletes from more than 22 different sports. His diverse, hands-on experience and exhaustive research make him easily bodybuilding's most innovative coach.

Having worked with elite-level athletes from a variety of sports, including bodybuilding and powerlifting, I have made it my specialty to find new ways to increase muscle growth and strength in the shortest amount of time. Sometimes this is through supplementation. Most often, however, it is through the manipulation of training variables you are already familiar with:

sets, reps, tempo, rest, frequency, duration and volume. What I have learned in that regard is what you will learn in this book. And more.

I am a full-time strength coach, not a full-time bodybuilder. Because of that, I have a slightly different vantage point from which I view the sport. I believe I have a slightly better view of things from here—at least a clearer one than some of the "mentors" in the sport.

I do not know of another sport that is as insular as bodybuilding. For decades the sport's information conduit has been virtually controlled by the Joe Weider empire. Its stars were the athletes Weider wanted to promote—but judging from the reactions of the crowd and contestants, the Mr. Olympia was fixed at least two times, once for Arnold and again for Arnie's sidekick Franco Columbu. However, Weider has so completely dominated the sport for so many years that he literally could get away with anything—and that's evident in the training information he perpetrates in his magazines.

In actuality, I have learned from informed sources that most of what Weider preached was actually penned by Bill Reynolds, who died of unspecified causes a few years ago. Bill was an extremely prolific writer, but his training knowledge was limited. Because of this, bodybuilders have been inundated with inadequate and sometimes inaccurate information. Since Bill's death, Weider has brought in, if not more informed editors, at least a larger variety of editors to provide more diverse viewpoints than in the past.

Of course, Weider is not all to blame. Nautilus guru Arthur Jones has to share the spotlight. I recall my indignation when reading his Nautilus Training Principles: Bulletin No. 1, in which he stated that bodybuilders must work to the point of momentary failure to "reach their individual limits of muscular size and strength very quickly." I agree that overload is essential for increasing maximal motor unit activation. Where I strongly disagree with Jones is when he said this overload "should be done in the performance of sets of at least 6 full repetitions and not more than 20 full repetitions." In fact, low reps are essential for achieving maximal growth.

Misinformation regarding exercise physiology is not confined to the bodybuilding community. Researchers in the US are limited by their environment. Untrained college students—so weak they could probably make significant progress playing Nintendo—are often used as subjects, and practical limitations usually require these studies to be completed within a few

A Elite athletes, such as decathlon world record holder and Gold medalist Don O'Brien, recognize the need to follow scientifically sound training regimens. Coach Poliquin predicts that top bodybuilders will begin applying more of the principles and knowledge from Olympic level sports to their own workout programs.

months. In contrast, many of the studies in Norway, Finland and Germany use elite athletes spanning a four-year Olympic cycle. Other problems with American studies include poorly motivated subjects and no accountability for important training variables such as tempo and rest between sets.

Today, there is no excuse for mediocre and inefficient exercise routines. I have the utmost respect for bodybuilders for the effort and intensity they devote, but most of their training methodologies are scientifically unfounded! In the case of Mike Mentzer, it's safer to say they are the rantings of a lunatic. With a tremendous amount of new information now available to the strength athlete, I'm amazed by the prehistoric practices that permeate the sport of bodybuilding.

We know more today than ever. Even so, it's been my experience that information doubles every 18 months, and I find myself changing and adapting my own theories within that same time frame. Don't be surprised if you read something in this book that may contradict what I said in an article three years ago. That is the nature of knowledge: it grows. In this case, the knowledge I've gleaned is intended to help you grow.

You may also detect a bit of sarcasm in my tone. I believe it is better to laugh at the state of knowledge in the bodybuilding community rather than viciously decry it—so it's my intention to inform you, and also give you a few smiles along the way. With that, let's begin exploring one of the most basic aspects of weight training: repetitions.

The Science of Reps

The first question bodybuilders ask is "How much?" The second question, which influences the first, is "How many?" Common wisdom dictated 8-10 reps. But like that old adage about needing eight glasses of water a day (which, by the way, has never been scientifically proven) everyone accepts this "magic" number without questioning who arrived at it or how.

First of all, there is no magic number. As you'll learn, repetition protocols should change given the condition of the athlete, the nature of the exercise and the goal. Learning a little about the principles behind repetition prescriptions will give you a better idea of how to apply this to your own workouts.

The following general principles about rep selection are based upon prac

A Elite athletes, such as decathlon world record holder and Gold medalist Don O'Brien, recognize the need to follow scientifically sound training regimens. Coach Poliquin predicts that top bodybuilders will begin applying more of the principles and knowledge from Olympic level sports to their own workout programs.

tical scientific research and empirical evidence from my work with elite athletes. Thus far, I don't believe Weider has taken credit for discovering them— but then again, it's been a while since I picked up Muscle and Fitness\

Follow the Neural-Metabolic Continuum

The amount of weight you lift in relation to your one-repetition maximum (1RM) determines how much tension a muscle produces. And the preponderance of credible research and empirical evidence shows the level of tension imposed upon a muscle is critical for obtaining a strength or hypertrophy response.

The number of reps you select will influence all other loading parameters: sets, speed of contraction, rest intervals and even exercise selection. The bottom line? Strength researchers have found reps in the 1 to 5, range maximally increase strength with minimal gains in muscle mass, and reps in the 6-15 range maximally increase strength through muscle mass gains. (Table 1)

Extreme muscle mass is one of the primary goals in bodybuilding, but that doesn't mean bodybuilders should never perform low reps. Low reps are the only way to stimulate the development of Type lib muscle fibers, which are the fast-twitch fibers that have the highest potential for growth. Another benefit of low-rep training is that when you come off a cycle of low reps, you will be able to use heavier weights. Heavier weights create a higher level of muscle tension, which in turn leads to a higher growth response. Mike Payette, a former Mr. Canada I trained who is now a professional wrestler, currently performs 40% of his exercises in the 4-rep range.

Let the Reps Dictate the Weight

You must periodically force yourself to use maximal voluntary contractions to get results. Maximal voluntary contractions occur when you attempt to recruit as many motor units as possible to develop force. This is the physiological basis of what is commonly referred to as the overload principle: If you do not apply overload to your muscles, there is no reason for your muscles to get bigger or stronger. (The exceptions are beginners and rehab patients whose strength levels are so low that training to momentary failure is not necessary for optimal results. In fact, these individuals could make significant progress lifting rocks!)

When you plan your workouts you should determine the desired training effect and select a repetition bracket to suit that goal. If you want to gain size, you would select a weight that enables you to complete between 6 and 12 reps. If you can only complete five reps, the weight is too heavy. If you can do more than 12 reps, the weight is too light.

The need to allow the reps to dictate the weight is a problem with some computerized workout programs. Most computer programs determine what you should lift for each workout by taking a percentage of your 1RM in each exercise. However, the 1RM continuum varies greatly from one mus-

"The number of reps you select will influence all of the loading parameters."

Table 1:

Relationship between maximum number of repetitions, intensity and the training effect

(Poliquin, 1990)®


Turbo Charged Fitness With The Tabata System

Turbo Charged Fitness With The Tabata System

The Tabata workout system is a version of the High Intensity Interval Training program developed by Professor Izumi Tabata as training for Olympic speed skaters in 1996. The results studies conducted on the training program confirm that even a four minute cardiovascular exercise routine improves a persons level of fitness.

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