by Chris Shugart
I was supposed to be meeting up with Chad Waterbury on a beach in Santa Monica. He lives nearby and sometimes trains his clients out in the sun and sand.
There’s no sign of him so far, just a few joggers, the usual bevy of Southern California beauties, and, way off in the distance, two men beating the shit out of some dude.
My mind raced. Should I call 911? Should I risk getting shanked and try to rescue the poor guy? Should I…
Then I realized that the crime victim appeared to be a grappling dummy of some kind. And one of the ruffians appeared to be strength and conditioning specialist, neurophysiologist, and official pretty motherfucker, Chad Waterbury. The other “bad guy” turned out to be a MMA fighter that Waterbury has been training for a Strikeforce debut on November 7.
During the next few hours, it didn’t matter if we were down the road at Venice Gold’s, driving around LA, or whooping it up at the Saddle Ranch bar, Waterbury was talking training. He talks about it because it seems that he’s always thinking about it. Always.
Luckily, I had my recorder on me.
• There’s an inverse relationship between the amount of equipment a performance coach has in his gym and his level of expertise.
The longer I train, the less equipment I use. Or maybe I should say, the less I find really beneficial. Everything I use can fit in the back of my SUV. I was talking to Dr. Stuart McGill yesterday and he mentioned what training tools he has in his lab: a cable stack, some kettlebells, and a barbell set. That speaks volumes.
• My colleagues and I get paid to explain what we do with our clients, and why. But if we could really explain what we do, we’d put ourselves out of business.
• The fact is, very few of the exercises you’re used to seeing coaches recommend have any real carryover to sport. If a walking lunge made a better running back, this whole process of performance enhancement would be a lot easier and guys like me would be out of business.
• A workout that consists of nothing but exercises that target your weaknesses would be the most boring — and beneficial — workout you’d ever do.
• Instinctive training beats every other type of training, hands down. But only a fraction of the population can get it right.
To me, Arnold is the greatest bodybuilder of all time because his instincts were to always train his weaknesses. The problem is, most of the people who train instinctively lean towards the exercises they’re good at. Arnold didn’t, and that’s what made him such an anomaly.
• Are there any trainers out there who have their clients rest three minutes between sets? I haven’t seen any. Yet I keep seeing three-minute rest periods prescribed across the Internet. I can’t imagine what a paying client must think while they’re sitting around for three minutes straight.
• The best fat loss training tool you’ll ever find is the jump rope. So if you want to design a kick-ass fat burning workout, just put three minutes of rope jumping where those three- minute rest periods used to be.
• Pushing an athlete when he wants to be pushed doesn’t do any good. You must push him when he’s off balance.
• You want to gain some serious muscle, fast? Simple. It starts with a half-serving of SURGE® Workout Fuel 10 minutes before training. Then you’ll do a heavy, full-body workout with 25 total reps per exercise while sipping the other half of the drink. Immediately after the workout drink one serving of Anaconda, followed by another serving 30 minutes later. Finally, take a 30-minute nap. I’ve seen nothing come close to that protocol.
• If you do nothing but single-limb exercises for all your lower body work for the rest of your life you’ll be thankful you did. The same can’t be said for your upper body.
• There’s no substitute for chins and dips from rings.
• When it comes to football, the bench press maximum rep test is the most inane measure of physical prowess that I can think of. Hell, a max rep sit-up test would tell you more about the capabilities of a football player because core endurance is grossly underrated. But that test sucks, too.
• A standing long jump — now that’s a test worth taking.
• You should count total reps instead of constantly searching for a magical combination of sets and reps. The next time you train a movement for more muscle, do 25 total reps with a weight you could lift 6 or 7 times for the first set. Stick with that weight until you complete 25 total reps.
It doesn’t matter how many sets it takes, or how long you rest between each set. Just work hard, stay focused, and get the job done.
It’s motivating because you’ll never have to worry about missing a rep if there’s not a target to begin with. The load is always right because it’s unchanging, and the reps are always right because you’ll only do as much as your body is capable of doing at that moment. This is the most logical and effective training principle I’ve ever used, and that’s why it’s the core of my Huge in a Hurry program.
• Can’t lose fat? Can’t gain muscle or build strength? Or maybe you can’t increase your speed? Everything points to the nervous system. That’s why I study it.
• I was talking to a friend the other day. He’s a guy who works at a health food store and is heavily into fitness. He mentioned that he wants to be a trainer, but he didn’t know if he’d be any good at it.
“Why not?” I asked him.
He replied, “I think I’d be a much better nutritionist.”
I told him that being a great nutritionist will help his clients more than if he knew every strength training method forward and backward. But I had to leave him with one caveat: Making permanent changes to a client’s diet is the most difficult challenge you’ll ever face.
I hope I didn’t discourage him, but I probably did.
• Carbs won’t make you fat. Fat won’t make you fat. Carbs and fat together won’t make you fat. Whether or not you gain fat is all about food quality. A 3000-calorie diet can make you gain fat or lose it, depending on the foods you eat. Once quality is in place, then it’s time to look at quantity.
• I’ve never seen any benefit in eating more than one gram of protein per pound of body weight.
• If a food makes you feel like shit, don’t eat it. It doesn’t matter how healthy that food supposedly is. I can’t eat almonds, walnuts, oranges, lemons, or red peppers. Those are some of the healthiest foods on earth but they make me feel like death warmed over.
• Coffee puts me to sleep. The only time I drink it is on a plane. My body doesn’t produce the necessary enzymes to process the chemicals so I’m left lying in a heap of lethargy. The biggest breakthrough in nutrition will occur when we can sync up our specific enzymes with the foods that match those enzymes. In the meantime, use digestive support.
• Gastrointestinal support really is all its cracked up to be — if you’re older than 30. When I was 21 I thought it was all hogwash. The older you are, the more it’ll benefit you. Every client I’ve ever put on digestive support has benefited in some way. I’ve used NOW Super Enzymes for years. Cheap and effective. One to three capsules with your three main meals can work wonders.
• Losing fat is the simplest and most difficult task you’ll ever face. Make one change each day. You know what those changes should be.
• I learn something valuable from every article I read. I can almost always take away a point or two that’ll benefit my clients. Sometimes an article is a complete train wreck, but it helps me better explain why I do what I do.
• I’m constantly in shock over how malevolent people can be when you recommend an alternative to what they’re doing. They take it very, very personal. Most people don’t want change; they want justification for what they’re currently doing.
• Opportunities arise for affable people. If you’re an asshole, stick to research. I wouldn’t want to have a beer with the best researchers I know, but they’re good at what they do. There’s a place for everybody.
• It’s funny how getting older really does impact what you want in life. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be huge. I was 165 pounds and 6’3″ at the time. I also wanted a Humvee, a 1970 Mustang Boss 429, a Harley Davidson Screaming Eagle, and Pamela Anderson for a girlfriend. In other words, things that were impossible to get because I was flat broke.
Then I started making money and could buy those things (well, the vehicles, anyway). But you know what? Once I realized I could have those things, I also realized that I really didn’t want them all that much. This is what happened with being huge, too.
I ate and trained my way up to 286 pounds. Actually, I stood on my doctor’s scale in 2002 and weighed 290, but I was fully clothed with boots on. Around that time I remember sitting in a movie theatre with my girlfriend and my spine ached from the load of my upper body mass. I realized then and there that I didn’t want to be that big. So I started shaving off body fat because I was around 18%. When I got down to 255 people started asking me if I was taking ‘roids because I looked bigger than when they saw me at 286.
By the time I moved to Santa Monica in 2007 I weighed 240. I was training jiu-jitsu and felt that my weight was a limiting factor. Plus, in Los Angeles it’s bad for business to be that big — for my target market, anyway. Three months later I was 220. An instructor at the Gracie school, who I hadn’t rolled with since I was 240, told me that my jiu-jitsu skills had really improved. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I hadn’t trained jiu-jitsu since I last saw him. I was just lighter and more mobile.
• Now I’m 218 and I feel better than ever. For my goals, this is the weight that I feel best carrying around. If I could snap my fingers and look like Ronnie Coleman I’d be damn certain I never snapped my fingers.
• It’s funny how people think they have the right to tell you how you should look.
• Over the last few years I’ve really learned to enjoy training females. Most of the females I train work just as hard as the fighters I train. That’s the cool part.
But females, in general, are much more sensitive to how you look than guys are. Whether I’m 280 or 220 doesn’t matter to my male clients, as long as they’re getting results. But if you meet with a female, and if you happen to look like a huge bodybuilder, they’re going to be hesitant to hire you to give them a bikini body.
If I decided to put back on 30 pounds of muscle, I’d have one helluva time getting female clients in this town. That’s something I don’t want.
• When I got out of college and started training, all I wanted to do was work with athletes who wanted to get bigger and stronger. But then reality hits and you realize that they have a joint or soft tissue limitation that’s keeping them from being able to train the way they need to train.
And then, when they need to get ripped, you soon realize that training isn’t enough. You’ve got to know how to make the necessary changes to their nutrition plan. Then you’ve got to make it doable. Telling a young, Testosterone-filled athlete that he must do tedious corrective exercises before he can get to the cool stuff is a tough sell. And telling him to eat grilled chicken and rice six times per day is a lesson in futility.
Training a guy to get bigger and stronger is the easy part. The hard part is overcoming all the limitations that he’ll walk into your gym with.
Heidi Montag, one of Chad’s size-discriminating clients.
Arnold found his weakness, like calves, and targeted them brutally until they were no longer weaknesses.
Waterbury and an MMA client in Santa Monica–>
Chad weighing in at a thick 286
Chad at 255
Chad at 235
Chad at 218 conducting a muscle test of boxer Jon Rude
About Chad Waterbury
Chad Waterbury is a neurophysiologist, director of strength and conditioning at the Rickson Gracie International Jiu Jitsu Center in West Los Angeles, and author of Huge in a Hurry.
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