Training Advices From Evan Centopani

Please be so kind as to settle this quandary for me. Some bodybuilders say that if you want to be big, you have to lift big. Others say that the weight is secondary to feeling the muscle work and getting a pump. What do you think?

You need to challenge yourself and put out serious effort, but weight itself is simply a means to an end. The weight is not the goal, even though it seems like that’s the way most guys in the gym think. If you are a powerlifter, then obviously your goal is to move as much weight as possible. This is bodybuilding. Nobody gives a shit how much weight you can lift when you’re up onstage and the judges are comparing your physique to the guy next to you. If your legs suck but you can squat 600 pounds and the guy next to you has awesome wheels but never uses more than 315, guess what? Your 600-pound squat means jack shit.

Why do I take my deadlifts from a rack and not the floor?

Someone posted a video clip of a big Russian dude named Konstantinov doing deadlifts off the ground with close to 800 pounds for four reps, as part of a suggestion that I start doing my deads this way. That set was impressive as hell. But to be honest, I really don’t make the weight my focus. I don’t like lifting from the floor because I feel it puts my back in a compromised position. Johnnie Jackson is definitely strong as hell and he has a great physique but I don’t think being able to deadlift all that weight really amounts to all that much on a bodybuilding stage. When you’re onstage, no one gives a shit how much you deadlift, how much you bench, what your measurements are, etc. You just look how you look and it’s either good enough to win or it’s not. I appreciate the advice people have been trying to offer me about how I can deadlift more weight. So far, I haven’t felt like my back development has been dependent upon the weight I use. But if I ever hit a wall and my development slows down and I can’t attribute it to anything else, then maybe I will make weight more of a focus and start setting poundage goals.

Do you keep a training log or another way of keeping track of your lifts? I have been for about three years now and I’m at a sticking point in a lot of my exercises (incline bench, flat bench, bent rows, to name a few). I have juggled new exercises and am stuck with those, too. It’s getting discouraging seeing the same weight and the same reps every week. Do you think I should abandon the book altogether and maybe lift by feel and not worry about beating the book?

I was never one to write things down. I have said at various times that I was going to start, but I never do. I feel like every day is different, every year you’re a different person etc., so who cares what you did a year ago? I don’t think it’s realistic to think you are going to get stronger every workout week after week, year after year, forever. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Otherwise you would see people bench pressing two thousand pounds and squatting two tons!

I think training intensity and just pushing yourself is most important. Again, if this wasn’t bodybuilding, then I’d say that is your game and you need to make it your concern. But just as a powerlifter doesn’t try and look a certain way or work on capping off his delts or thickening his upper pecs, why would a bodybuilder try to lift a certain weight? My advice is to ditch the book for a while and see what happens. You can always go back to it.

Do you guys notice a theme this month yet? The idea is to use the weights to work the muscle, not use your muscles to work the weights. My buddy Justin Miller said that, and he is a smart man when it comes to all this stuff!

I remember during your last off-season you mentioned that your lower back would be tight in the mornings. Mine has been tight all day lately, off and on. I am eating a lot of carbs and just finished a jug of Volu Gro from Nutrex, which is Waxy Maize and Creatine. Do you know of anything I could do to alleviate the pain? I just had a deep tissue massage last week, but it does not feel like an injury; it feels almost like a constant muscle pump but it is really irritating.

The best thing I could recommend would be to keep your diet clean, drink plenty of water and do cardio regularly, three or four times a week. I feel like the cardio is especially helpful because it gets your blood flowing, helps to flush metabolic waste products out, and just helps circulation and recovery in general. I know the lower back thing sucks— it’s a real pain in the ass.

Do you prefer cardio post-workout or do you feel it should be done at a separate time of the day? Usually I do either the elliptical or the StairMaster for 30 minutes, then I have my amino acid stack, dextrose, and glutamine. I have mixed emotions as to when I should do my cardio. When do you feel is the right time to do it and why?

I think cardio is best first thing in the morning and/or at night before bed. Post-workout is tough because if you train with the type of intensity necessary, a) post-workout cardio is too draining, and b) it leaves you waiting way too long between meals. After intense training you should eat— and the longer you delay that meal the more you compromise your recovery and growth.

My Current 8-Day Split:

Day 1: Quads
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Chest & Triceps
Day 4: Back
Day 5: Off
Day 6: Hams and Calves
Day 7: Biceps, Delts, Abs
Day 8: Off

I wanted to know your opinion of Dorian Yates’ training style. Did you ever try anything like that in the past? And also, what do you think of supersets? Everybody in my gym is doing supersets all the time, including an old guy and his trainer, and they both look really good. I don’t mind doing one superset in my training, but all they do is supersets, and they’re always saying “Come on Maxime, do supersets, that’s the best way to gain muscle!”
I think that pretty much any training technique can work if done correctly and for a certain period of time. Training to failure, high-intensity, volume, supersets, drop sets, etc. are all great if you work hard and use good form. Just give different things a try and eventually piece it together in a way that incorporates everything into a formula that works well for you. Just keep in mind that everything works well for a certain amount of time, and then the only way to start seeing results again is to switch things up.

I have a question about pullovers, an exercise we don’t seem to hear much about. In the off-season, do you like to use pullovers for either back or chest, and what type of pullover do you do? Do you do the old-school Nautilus machine like Dorian and Mike Mentzer used, straight bar cable pulldowns, or a dumbbell?

I think dumbbell pullovers are good for the back, but you have to really get your form down so the triceps aren’t doing the work; it’s not easy. I’d use a Nautilus machine, but all we have at my gym is a Bodymasters model and it’s too narrow for me to fit into! I want it to work so bad that every now and then I’ll try and squeeze into it, only to find that I still don’t fit. I guess that’s a good thing, because the idea is to get wider across the back and shoulders as a bodybuilder, not narrower.

How often do you ‘cheat’ during the week? Meaning, how often do you go out and eat something that’s not on your diet, like sushi, buffalo burger and fries, fajitas, stuff like that? I have been eating out a lot lately. It started with a couple of weddings and cookouts and now I’ve been doing it about three times a week. I’m gonna cut it out very soon. Do you think something like this is a good shock to the metabolism?

If we are talking about the off-season here, which I assume we are, I cheat whenever I feel I need it or whenever I really crave something. That usually ends up being two or three times a week. I think that, depending on your metabolism and your caloric needs, throwing in some different foods here and there is a good thing. I wouldn’t do it just to do it, like scheduling a certain amount of cheat meals that you feel like you have to eat, but if you feel you need it or would benefit from it, you should have it.

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