Troubleshooting May 2013

on Wednesday, 01 May 2013.

What are your thoughts on training to eccentric failure? Is this a useful tactic and how often should you employ it into your training program?

There are three types of muscular failure. In simple terms, concentric strength is less than isometric strength which, in turn, is less than eccentric strength. In other words, when your concentric strength is exhausted you will still have eccentric strength left. To be able to exercise what eccentric strength you have left you would need assistance to get the resistance through the concentric phase of the rep. When your eccentric strength is exhausted – i.e. when the resistance can’t be controlled in its downward descent- the involved musculature will be temporarily paralysed.

Concentric failure occurs when you can no longer lift the weight through a full range of motion on your own. For example, when the resistance gets stuck before the normal end point of a rep. Isometric failure occurs when you can no longer hold the weight statically, and the resistance starts descending despite your very best effort to hold it still. Eccentric or negative failure occurs when you can no longer lower the weight under control. Control can be defined as the ability to keep the descent time to at least four seconds for a single eccentric phase. So, total muscular failure occurs only once eccentric failure has been reached!

Training to eccentric failure is potentially quite dangerous especially in exercises where the resistance is overhead or bearing down on you, e.g. the bench press of the squat. There is a risk of losing control to such a degree that you get crushed, or the involved musculature and connective tissue is overstretched. It’s also not a practical way to train because, at least in the pinnacle exercises, it necessitates the use of at least two strong spotters to help you raise the weight in the concentric phase. If the assistance is not provided properly, your risk of injury is pretty high. To add fuel to the fire, to train to eccentric failure in the pinnacle exercises is likely to devastate you systematically, and ensure overtraining.

I have a mate who prepared for a bodybuilding competition by following the Protein Sparing Modified Fast. I don’t want to compete but I need to lose about 20 kilograms. I train a 4 day split and do a cardio session every week. Do you think this fast would be appropriate for me?

At the end of the day the PSMF is just another diet. Will it work if you do it? Yes. Will you be able to train on it? Yes. Will you knock off the 20 kg’s? Yes. Is it sustainable? No. The principles of the Protein Sparing Modified Fast is to calculate the level of carbohydrate that is needed by the body to maintain the basal metabolic rate (BMR). The BMR is the rate at which the basic body functions (e.g. breathing, beating of the heart) can be maintained when the body is at complete rest. When more energy is required the body will burn stored fat, which leads to the production of ketones. The process of burning fat to provide energy is called ketosis and is a natural body process. This natural type of ketosis is a hypoglycemic ketosis and is very different from protein ketosis. The latter takes place in fasting, starvation or diabetic ketosis; where the body protein rather than fat is broken down to provide energy. In the PSMF the protein intake is carefully calculated to prevent the body using body protein as a source of energy. If this precaution is not taken, your weight loss is going to come mostly from water and lean muscle tissue. The PSMF should not be used by pregnant women, nursing mothers, insulin dependent diabetics, or anyone with a severe liver or kidney disease. Research has shown that ketones act both as a natural appetite suppressant as well as reducing food cravings. The burning of fat as an energy source produces more calories of energy that burning the same amount of carbohydrate. This process can lead to increased energy levels.

The PSMF involves adhering to strict guidelines with respect to the intake of protein, carbohydrates and essential fats. This means that food has to be weighed and protein supplements taken at regular intervals. However it has the advantage that there will be more rapid weight loss usually accompanied with a good sense of well-being. The diet also stabilise insulin and blood glucose levels and so reduces blood glucose (and mood) swings. Basically you follow this way of eating until you hit your goal.

Diet Preparation

Have the following items ready before commencing the program:

A food diary to record each day’s food so that the amount of protein and carbohydrate for the evening meal can be calculated.

A carbohydrate counter

A well-stocked fridge and pantry with plenty of lean meats, fresh vegetables on hand.

A set of bathroom scales

A set of food scales to measure the food in grams

Tupperware or a 6 pack to carry meals, snacks, drinks, protein powders and water when you are away from home or the office.

Find a suitable WPI protein powder. The powder must contain all the essential amino acids, but should not have any carbohydrates or fats. It should also have a high vitamin and mineral content.

Rules for The Program

The following ‘rules’ should be adhered to for best results:

Follow the diet exactly as prescribed

Do not skip meals or any of the protein shakes as this will lead to low blood sugar levels.

Use 4 teaspoons of suitable cold pressed flaxseed oil and 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar per day.

If the food is not listed below, best to avoid it for best results. Accurate recording of the carbohydrate content of food is essential to remain in ketosis.

Try and consume plenty of water.

Avoid ‘forbidden’ foods, as the smallest cheat can upset the whole days.

After the second day of the program, test daily to see if you are in ketosis. The presence of ketosis ensures that you are burning fat at the maximum rate. The presence of ketosis can be detected by the use of ketosticks, which can be brought from your local chemist. Don’t keep the ketostick in your bathroom as any moisture will render them useless. Keep the ketosticks container firmly closed for the same reason.

Food Sources: Here is a list of the food sources that I would recommend if you are going to give it a go.


  • Roo
  • Lean Beef (including extra trim mince)
  • Chicken Breast (skinless)
  • Turkey Breast
  • Egg Whites (no yolks)
  • Protein Powder
  • Fish- All types including Salmon, Mackerel, Orange Roughie, Blue Grenadier
  • Tuna in brine or spring water, or fresh

  • Beans - all kinds               
  • Buk Choy, Bok Choy , All Chinese green leafies
  • Lettuce (all varieties)
  • Tomato, Beetroot
  • Carrot
  • Cucumber/Celery
  • Alfalfa
  • Kale
  • Broccoli /Cauliflower/Brussel Sprouts
  • Artichoke/ Asparagus/Squash/Onion/Chives
  • Egg Plant/Garlic/Ginger/Leeks
  • Mushrooms/Parsley/Parsnip/Radish/Silver beet
  • Swede/Turnip/Water Chestnut/Zucchini/Cabbage
  • Capsicum, Chillies


  • Avocados (half per day)
  • Extra Virgin Olive, Rice Bran Oil and Canola Oil
  • Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil (linseed meal)
  • Walnuts and almonds

Protein Source  3 Protein Shakes of WPI and 2-4 serves of a suitable lean protein source

Carbohydrate Source     Low GI vegetables

Essential Fats     1 teaspoon 5 times a day of suitable cold pressed oil (flaxseed, sunflower or olive)

Before commencing it is necessary to calculate your daily protein intake. Estimate a realist target weight in kilograms. You can weigh 95 kg’s for example now, with a goal weight of 75 kg’s. Convert this weight into grams and this will give you your allowed daily protein intake. If you are amening for a goal weight of 75 kg’s then your daily protein intake is 75 grams. It is always better to underestimate rather than overestimate your weight loss. You can always readjust your protein intake at a later date. It is the carbohydrate intake that is critical. The daily diet involves 4 drinks of the protein powder, supplying 10 grams of protein per drink. This gives you a total of 40 grams of protein form the protein drink. The remaining amount of protein is supplied from the listed sources of protein food.

The starting level of carbohydrate allowed is 20 grams per day.

The protein intake is calculated from your weight goal. If your target weight is 75 kg’s, then your protein intake is 75 grams. The protein drinks will supply 40 grams, the remaining 35 grams is supplied from suitable protein sources at meal 1 and meal 5 (breakfast and dinner).

The 4 protein drinks are taken at set time periods- breakfast, lunch and between 5-6pm and approximately 9pm. If you experience severe low blood sugar levels between drinks, you may split the three drinks into two portions, and have a mid-morning, mid-afternoon and bedtime drinks.

Salad is eaten at one meal of the day. A this meal, the salad dressing is made from one teaspoon of a suitable cold pressed oil and two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. All teaspoon measurements are metric and are equivalent to 5 millilitres. No oil is added to the protein drink taken with or closest to this meal.

One teaspoon of suitable cold pressed oil is added to the remaining three protein drinks. This not only provides a good source of essential fats, but the presence of a dietary fat is necessary to burn the stored body fat.

Weigh and record ALL CARBOHYDRATE EATEN AT BREAKFAST AND LUNCH. Subtract the carbohydrate total from 20 and this will give you the number of grams of carbohydrate allowed for the evening meal. So if you had a total of 6.5 grams of carbohydrate for breakfast and 4.6 grams of carbohydrate for lunch, then you would subtract the overall total of 11.1 from 20 to give you 8.9 grams of carbohydrate allowed for dinner. Please note that different food charts may differ in their estimation of the carbohydrate and protein content of specific foods.

Weight and record your intake of protein in grams. Remember if your target weight is 80 kg’s or over you will need a protein shake at lunch time as well. Taking your target weight as 75 kg’s, then your dinner allowance would be 35 (75-40) minus your protein eaten at breakfast i.e. 35-10.00 or 25 grams of protein.

Day 4: Commence testing the early morning urine for the presence of ketosis. Pass the test strip of the ketostick through the urine stream. Allow the stipulated time to pass before reading the degree of colour recorded. Stay out of the purple zone as that means insufficient carbohydrates which can lead to headaches and general feelings of malaise.

The slower the metabolic rate, the greater the level of carbohydrate needed by the body, An underactive thyroid gland (whether caused by an auto immune disease, nutrient deficiency, oestrogen dominance or the toxic effect of synthetic chemicals) will lead to a slowing down of the metabolic rate.

The PSMF eating fulfils the requirements for the following:

An allergy/food intolerance diet (substitute for eggs and dairy products if required). No grains are allowed.



Insulin/blood glucose levels stabilising diet

Low stress

Maintenance of healthy organs

The flip side is that it limits your dietary intake substantially and involves the weighing of foods. Also if you ‘break’ plan even a little bit you basically have to start all over again.

On a competition note I got to experience my first glimpses of a competition this past weekend at the FILEX expo. I watched the teens and junior classes and was quite surprised by the results in the junior class. There were 2 athletes who stood out and in my opinion one athlete was very well conditioned lacking muscularity in comparison to the other competitor who was quite muscular but didn't have the same conditioning as the other athlete. In the end the more conditioned athlete placed first, now this was the INBA and I know you judge in a different organisation so I guess judging may be different in your organisation but generally speaking would conditioning be more important than muscularity?  Also I know the competition was held within an expo so times may have been restricted but for a class of 15 athletes they were lucky to be on stage for approximately 10mins for the symmetry and muscularity poses is this always the case?

I think this is the million dollar question! Each federation has slightly different judging criteria and it’s possibly fair to say that they each look more favourably at different things. The INBA look very favourably on symmetry. NABBA and IFBB reward huge amounts of muscle, WFF rewards condition. Essentially if you are thinking about competing, your best bet is to have both. If on stage it comes down to a bigger, more muscular guy versus a less muscular but more conditioned, lean physique, then I think the decision comes down to two things: the degree of difference between them both in terms of muscle mass and body fat levels, and then, down to the individual judges preference. We can see that for example with NABBA you can often see a mass monster win the overall, yet his condition might be a tad soft, (think Jake Nikalopoulous at last year’s Southern Hemispheres) conversely with WFF someone like David Nazaroff comes in completely sliced and diced and wins the overall. I personally like to reward condition but you always have to be mindful that it is after all a bodybuilding competition, not a dieting comp. Have the muscle mass and the low levels of body fat and you will do well!

As for time spent on the stage, this is varying dependant on a range of factors. Usually the more competitors the longer you would be up on stage. Even longer is there are a number of strong contenders and the judges wish to do a number of ‘call outs’ and comparisons. However it is true that you can do countless hours of training in the gym for even less than 10 minutes on stage. If you can imagine that to you, as part of the audience it seemed like a short period of time, imagine the competitors themselves? As their senses are over flooded, their time on stage is a real flash in the pan, over before they know it. A lot of hard work in the gym is only showcased fleetingly on stage.