Fitness Success Stories
Scottish Bodybuilder Trains Less – and Thrives
Dear Mr. Bass:
I just want to thank you for being brave enough to adopt once-a-week training and tell us about it. I have put training before most other things all my life – without the results I would have hoped for. At one time I was lifting 6 times a week and doing aerobics 4. I can even remember leaving a party at my own home because it was legs day and I had not been able to fit them in earlier. Now I lift once a week, on Sat and do aerobics Mon, Wed and Fri. I am not brave enough yet to do aerobics only once a week. The point is I now can still feel the effects of my whole-body routine by Thurs, and I am making progress! I have so much more spare time and actually look forward to my weights day. You are a pioneer of fitness and an inspiration to all of us who thought our training days would end. I know now that thanks to you mine never will!
Billy tells us he was much thinner in the upper body before
back on his training. Way to go, Billy. Keep it up.
As someone who never reached the level you have in bodybuilding, I am now reaping the rewards as I get older and see old friends look just that [old] while I am actually trying to look my best ever. Thanks again for the inspiration, motivation and advice. Believe me, your words ring in my ears each and every (infrequent) workout.
Yours in fitness and health.
Once-A-Week Training Works for Busy Family Man
Hello, Mr. Bass:
I just wanted to thank you for providing me with the answers to questions that I have failed to answer over the past ten years. I am a married, thirty-year-old father of two young children. I work fifty to fifty-five hours a week as a restaurant manager. Aside from that fact, I have a sporadic schedule which complicates matters even worse. Even with those negative variables, I try to live a fitness lifestyle.
I would get off of work after working nearly ten hours and force myself to labor through workouts, when clearly my body and mental attitude were telling me otherwise. I would do this at least three days a week (M/W/F). On occasion I would take a day off if I was really tired and couldn't produce enough motivation to continue, but those times were rare. Consequently period of workouts produced very little gains and nearly always ceased due to illness or injury.
It wasn't until I read your book Challenge Yourself At Any Age that I suddenly realized that I had been setting myself up for failure all of these years due to inflexible thinking and a lack of common sense. Initially it was difficult to buy into the idea of working out only once-a-week, but your detailed explanation and my past failures helped to override my skepticism.
I have made the most significant gains in my workouts since I was in high school. I now realize that a once-a-week, total-body workout is exactly what I needed to coincide with my busy work schedule and home life. Your book really opened my mind to new possibilities.
Continuously challenging myself in my training has allowed me to compete in a local recreational basketball league with players nearly ten years my junior. In most cases I outplay them. People that I grew up with tell me I haven't lost the first-step quickness that I possessed in high school.
Thank you for providing me with a viable alternative that works.
Tabata Protocol Produces PR Rowing from 500- to 10,000-Meters
Can less really be more?
You've been working out for a long time, right? By now you probably know, or have read how doing brief, relatively few hard workouts can make you faster, stronger and healthier than doing a bunch of medium-high intensity workouts all the time. Ever wonder what would happen if you took that concept to the extreme, say by reducing your training time to a mere 90 minutes per week? Over 3 years ago, that's exactly what I did and this is an account of what happened. (Thanks Clarence for your invitation to share this story with your readers.)
It all started when I read articles 10 and 11 on this website (cbass.com) regarding Dr. Tabata's studies. If you haven't read them, please do. I think you'll be surprised by what you find. In brief, the studies show how after six weeks of training, Dr Tabata's test subjects made huge gains in both their aerobic and anaerobic capacity on a ridiculously short training regime. The training consisted of 8, very hard, 20-second intervals with 10 seconds of rest between each interval. The test subjects gained fitness so quickly that, as Dr. Tabata put it, "The rate of increase in V02max is one of the highest ever reported."
I was already in good shape when I decided to try this type of training. I'd been competing in Concept 2 rowing machine races for years and I was definitely no stranger to interval training. Nothing I'd done, however, was as intense as what I was about to try. The idea is simple: Do all 8 intervals at a constant pace, hard enough to make the 7th and 8th intervals very hard to complete. In other words, by the 7th or 8th interval, you're toast. Maybe I'm masochistic, but I liked this workout right from the start and soon I was doing them weekly. After a month, I could tell I was on to something. I had the unmistakable feeling that my fitness level was on the rise. After a few months on this regime, I felt incredibly strong.
At this point I was down to only two workouts per week: one interval session and one weight lifting session. The long bike rides, half-day hikes, longer rowing sessions and all my other active pursuits continued, but at a drastically reduced intensity level. I decided to turn these activities into fun recovery ventures instead of workouts. This new approach proved to be a good idea. Overtraining problems ended and I always felt like a race horse being let out of the barn when workout day arrived. After two years on this regime, I felt strong and fit like never before, but was I?
To find out, I climbed on the Concept 2 Rowing Machine to test myself at distances from 500- to 10,000-meters. Over a three month period, I alternated Tabata protocol workouts with PR attempts on the rower. Rowing times on a Concept 2 don't lie; the electronic monitor is legendary in its accuracy, so if I could break or even come close to any of my previous best times, I'd know something about my fitness level. The results? Last year, at age 39, I ended up rowing all-time personal bests in the 500 meter, 1,000 meter, 5,000 meter, 30-minute row, and the 10,000 meter--every distance I attempted. A few months earlier, at age 38, I even shaved a couple seconds off my 2,000 meter time--a record I considered untouchable since the day I set it. The answer was clear, I was indeed as fit as I felt!
Photo courtesy RJ Sanderson
To me, this is the real payoff. Achieving goals and setting PRs is wonderful, but the 24-hour a day feelings of strength and "rude animal health," as I someone once described it, can't be beat. The whole process of getting to that point is a heck of a lot of fun too. My training may evolve into something totally different as the years go by, but for now I'm sticking with the short/hard/infrequent approach. After three years of experience, it looks like less actually can be more!
Santa Rosa, CA
[Editor: RJ is too modest to tell you that his times at all distances mentioned place him in the top six on the 2002 Concept 2 world ranking for lightweight men ages 30-39. He ranks 2nd at 500 meters, 3rd at 1000 meters and 30 minutes, and 6th at 5000- and 10,000-meters. We can’t think of a more convincing demonstration of the broad application of the Tabata protocol. Who would have thought that a 4-minute protocol could produce world-class performances for under two minutes, over 30 minutes and everything in between? Congratulations RJ!]
Diet Change Helps Aspiring Pro Golfer
My name is Ik-Joon and I’m working hard to become a professional golfer. I already have Lean for Life and Challenge Yourself. I was so impressed; they are the best diet books I’ve ever read. Last week, I ordered your books Ripped 1-3 and The Lean Advantage 1-3 as well.
I’ve read many diet books (Body for Life, NHE, Warrior Diet...), but I think the high-carb, low-fat diet is really working for me. I’m Korean and naturally the Korean diet is high carb and low fat. Like everybody, I thought high protein-low carb is best for building muscle, but I gained more body fat. Now I understand why high carb, low fat diet is working -- after I read your books.
I feel so good about my diet since I changed my high protein, low carb diet to the cbass diet. Especially, my mind control on the golf course is better. The low carb diet really hurt my performance sometimes. Now, I am more calm and can think clearly. Many people try to find a quick fix like high protein, no carbs or the Atkins diet. I think your philosophy is so simple that many people don’t listen.
By the way, Ty Tryon is my very close friend. [Editor: Tryon recently received his PGA card, at 17!] I’ve known him since he was 12. He is a very confident golfer, thinks like an old man. I’ve worked with his coach. You’ll be seeing me alongside Ty on the Golf Channel sooner or later.
Challenge Fires-up Doc’s Workouts
I know that you are probably inundated with positive feedback, but a little extra never hurts, and I must relay the irony of my re-introduction to your sound advice.
Briefly, I started lifting in late high school (about 1986) with a few close friends. I was less than 100 lbs, and could barely bench press my own weight. We would read Muscle & Fitness magazine, and being of more "mortal" stature, we were huge fans of your column and set goals to make ourselves as lean and mean as yourself.
Many years later, I see how that early training changed not only my physical appearance and abilities, but my personality and philosophy of life. There is nothing like accomplishing a goal through hard work to open your eyes to life's possibilities. But recently, having settled into a career and started a family, I found my workouts more mundane. I had no real goals, other than to stay in shape, which proved a difficult motivator during early morning workouts. I thought I could only make gains with long sessions, so I would give up in disgust thinking "what is the point?" if I didn't have enough time for a real workout. I had to let the waist out in all my pants (first time since college). I also wanted to improve my diet, but had no direction. Also, it seemed that those around me were content to let time do its worst, so I had no incentive there either.
Then a call from my old training buddy and still close friend Mike Frank. It was in his basement that my training had begun years before. Ironically, his recommendation to read your new book would again save my condition. Applying your ideas, he had recently made new gains in an area that he had trained for years. Hitting 30 pull-ups, he had accomplished a goal that he had pushed for, even back in high school. But the better part was the motivation. He told of how he looked forward to the workouts so much he sometimes had trouble sleeping! When he said that you discouraged maintenance and encouraged challenges, it hit a personal note that assured me I had to get the book. To my delight and surprise, I couldn't tell how old you were without looking at the caption! So I read.
And now my workouts have a fire they have not seen in some time. My aerobics sessions are short but brutal, and I am sitting with a bunch of whole grains in my belly even now. My pants are getting loose, but I am gaining weight. As a physician, I recognize the extent of the research you have put into your programs. But mostly, I know from the increased enthusiasm and direction that I have that your plan will keep me going for life!
Thanks again for all your inspiration!
-John M. Salmon IV, M.D.
Eclectic Approach Produces Gains During Recuperation
As is my habit on the first of every month, I pointed my internet browse to cbass.com, for my latest fix of training insight and wisdom. I was not disappointed—I never am. I mean, who else would even know about Tommy Kono? Or, these days, John Grimek? Not only did I find a high-quality discussion of a set of exercises two of which I regularly include in my exercise diet, Matt Furey’s Royal Court, but I found useful discussion of squats, which I do not include in that diet these days, but will again in the future, for sure.
This is a thank you email to Clarence Bass, who is committed to providing public and freely available analysis, discussion, and results of experimentation with an exceptionally wide range of fitness topics, some of which, like HeavyHands, I have done for decades now, and others, like kettlebells, which I have done for only several months. I came eventually to kettlebells through the article "the Evil Russian Touches Down in Albuquerque", and to what some people call ‘Tabata intervals’ via article 11.
I have used these sets of ideas to not only dramatically improve my cardio fitness, both anaerobic and aerobic, and my hours-long endurance as well, but to become significantly stronger on the mat and in the ring. All this—here’s the big deal—while supporting and speeding my recovery from a very bad re-injury this March of an old disc and sacroiliac joint problem which had left me unable to walk without crutches for two months. That I could make these major gains even during a time of relative disability, WOW!!! That without entertaining any intention for mass gains, I could also have put an inch both on my arms and on my happily expanded chest as I indeed have, the first additional inches there in many years, is gravy. My mirror also thanks you.
Your site is a gem, and a resource. Thanks again, my good man: it is wonderful for this fifty-year-old to be inspired and assisted by you, the vibrant sixty-year-old. Don't stop, please, never stop.
Craig H. Nelson
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