Thursday, October 13, 2022

Roger Estep Q & A, Part One (1983)

Thanks, Bob! 

Q: I've been powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. I really enjoy going to both powerlifting and bodybuilding contests. I have only seen you lift three times in person and I am amazed at your proportions and definition. Do you have a special pre-contest diet? 

A: My pre-contest diet is a six day carbohydrate loading diet. The first day I go through my last workout before the meet which depletes the carbohydrates stored in my body. I then go 3-1/2 days with no carbohydrates. My meals for those 3-1/2 days consist 90% of lean meat, broiled chicken, and fish. The next 1-1/2 days I load up on carbohydrates with lots of pasta, ice cream and cola. During this time I eat anything I want.

The theory behind this type of diet is that when you deplete and go for 3-1/2 days without carbohydrates and then saturate your body with carbohydrates, it will overreact to this carbohydrate starvation and store more carbohydrates in the muscle tissues in the form of glycogen. This theory has been validated by physiologists throughout the world. The researchers who developed this diet observed that in a normal diet the average concentration of muscle glycogen (the sugars stored in muscle for anaerobic work) was 1.75 grams per 100 grams of muscle. After the 3-1/2 days of the limited diet the glycogen level fell to around .5 grams per 100 grams of muscle. When the diet was then changed to heavy intake of carbohydrates the level increased to between 3 and 5 grams per 100.

You must remember that to use this diet that your bodyweight must be only a few pounds over your competition weight.

Q: How do arrange your schedule to prevent overtraining? 

A: Most American amateur athletes are so hungry for success that there is no lack of motivation in their training, but in many cases there is a lack of good sense. In their desire for world records in the shortest possible time the the athletes try tp put 10 years of training into 6 months. Training 6 times a week for 1 year is not the same as training 3 times a week for 2 years. 

If the powerlifter listens to his body it will tell him when he is overtrained. When progress stops, it's usually a sign of overtraining. The rule of thumb I go by is to insure enough recovery time between workouts is simple. Let's say I have been bench pressing 450 for 4-5 singles in my workouts. One day I come in and 425 is a real effort and on 450 I need help to get it up. Well, I've been training long enough that I know it's not a lack of motivation, so, just write the session off as a bad day. Maybe I didn't get enough sleep or my diet might have been poor for a few days. The next time my training calls for bench pressing, I still have my thoughts on going up to 450 or 460 for some singles, but, stop! The same thing happens as the time before. 425 is a ton and 450 won't go. This tells me I'm overtrained, because I'm an experienced lifter and I don't have two bad days in a row. 

I take a day off benching and then take a light workout then a medium one, then back to my 450s.

Formula to prevent overtraining: 
One poor workout = bad day
Two poor workouts = overtraining
Three poor workouts = 4-6 weeks needed to recover


Q: What do you consider the most important factor training for powerlifting? 

A: There are many factors that determine the success or failure of an athlete; be it in football, baseball, track and field, or powerlifting. Let's examine some of the important factors and make a decision. 

Of course, your training is important. Are you training 3 or 4 days a week and sticking to a regular routine or are you missing workouts. When you're training for a competition you can't afford to miss any workouts unless you need the rest to prevent overtraining. 

Diet is also valuable. If you are taking on workouts at the levels it takes to succeed then you must refuel your body. Without proper diet your body will be in a catabolic state. With proper diet you will put your body in an anabolic state and repair yourself between workouts. 

Your environment must have minimal distraction so you can put all your energy toward the workouts. 

Technique is of value. You must maintain proper form in all lifts to get the most out of your leverages.

Now we come down to one factor that takes all the factors above and controls them. It's something that is with you all the time, every minute of the waking day and in many cases while you sleep. It's your mental attitude toward your lifting. If your mental attitude is for success, you won't miss any workouts or come up with an off the wall excuse on why you should miss a workout. Heaven knows there are a billion poor excuses and only a handful of legitimate ones. Your diet will never suffer if your mental attitude does not stop at the gym. By concentrating on technique during all your lifts you will develop the right form for the movement without having to think about it. 

All the great lifters that I know think about their lifting throughout the day and try to analyze how they can improve their next workout. I'm sure that at least 90% of the people reading this article have had dreams about success, and another aspect of mental attitude is to always believe in yourself. If you are training with people who don't encourage you and help you with your confidence, then it's time to find some new partners. A person with an aggressive mental approach will never question his ability to lift more and more weight. 

So if you really want to succeed, you must believe in yourself and get into a positive mental environment. 


Q: What is the best exercise for improving the squat? 

A: I find that doing full squats for heavy singles once a week along with heavy high box squats with 50-75 pounds over your best full squat 3 days later works well for me and all the people I have trained with. 

The high box squat should be to a bench or box which is 2 or 3 inches above parallel. At this depth you should be able to handle the additional 50-75 pounds I have mentioned. 

You will be able to do 8-10 reps in this movement. The advantage of handling this weight is not only an increase in strength, but you also get the body adapted to the feel of the heavy weight you have to use in a competition. Everyone knows when you take a weight out of the rack and it feels light that you have won half the battle of the lift. 

Q: You always advocate singles. Why? There are many top lifters who use 3-5s, some 8-10s. They claim that singles don't work as well. Could you explain your theory on singles? 

A: First of all, let's get in the ball park with the numbers of reps a powerlifter should do. Any lifter who says that you should do the competition lifts in sets of 8-12 for strength is in a small minority. 

You have to make your practice sessions simulate the actual meet as close as you can, and you're not going to win any national meet by being able to bench 400 pounds for 10 reps when 460 with a pause will stay on your chest. 

Now, as far as singles over triples, I guess this depends on the psychology of the lifter. I know that Steve Wilson, Dave Waddington and the people they train with like to do triples. No one can say anything negative about their strength, but as far as I'm concerned singles work best for me because I always know where my strength is. Furthermore, it's easier for me to psych up for one big push. 

Another note about lifters who do triples. As the weight gets heavier closer to a contest, the lifter might plan on a triple and really end up with a double or even a single. Thus, the triple routine has changed to a singles routine. 

Note: In his book Pushing for Power, Bill Seno offers his thoughts on singles.
It's in five parts on this blog. 

Q: I enjoy both powerlifting and bodybuilding. What is the best way for me to stay lean and be able to compete in both? 

A: I guess you're like everyone else in the world; you want to have your cake and eat it too. Well, everyone knows powerlifters can eat cake and bodybuilders can't, so you'll have to set your priorities. The day of the all around athlete is past. Every sport becomes more specialized each year. Football players used to play both offense and defense. Now they have offensive teams, defensive teams. kickoff teams, punt teams, place kickers. Not too long ago if a quarterback had to run, he tried to get every yard possible; now he falls down before being tackled. In baseball, you have your short relief pitchers, long relief pitchers, and the D.H. [And changing to a new ball almost every stinking pitch]. 

Joe Weider told me two years ago that when I was ready to dedicate myself to bodybuilding I would be successful, but for me to win a Mr. Universe contest I would have to dedicate my training to that contest with the same intensity that I would for a National or World powerlifting championship. 

If you want to give it a try, here are some tips: 

1) Train all your powerlifts heavy and do 3-4 different exercises for each body part. 4 sets (per exercise) should be enough, but if you have a weak body part you might want to do extra for it. 

2) Diet should include plenty of protein with medium amounts of carbohydrates and low fat. If you try to train on too low a carbohydrate diet you'll find yourself starving for energy after 30 minutes of training and all your heavy lifts will stay on the ground.

3) Before a power contest cut some of your bodybuilding out and concentrate on the 3 lifts. This way your energy is channeled toward the heavier power movements. Also, you might want to increase your carbohydrate intake for more energy.

4) Before getting ready for a bodybuilding show you'll want to reduce carbohydrates to below 100 grams a day for 6-8 weeks and train your weak body parts first in a workout. During this period your powerlifts will take a sharp drop downward, and if you're like me, it will make you sick to watch 50 pounds of bench press strength disappear. You have to realize this is the price to pay.

Joe Weider said the great bodybuilders of the future will come from the powerlifting ranks. Let's prove him right. 

At East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina
                                                      190-pound Al [trap bar] Gerard deadlifts 595. 

Q: I don't know if you'll remember me, but, you got me started in powerlifting about seven years ago at Luke's Gym in New Martinsville, West Virginia. I'm still lifting and my squat and deadlift are doing well but my bench just won't move. It's getting harder to go to the gym for a workout. I've strayed away from the original program that you started me on and since I didn't keep any records, I can't recall it. 

A: Of course I remember you. Luke's is a legend in powerlifting. Luke's Gym put West Virginia on the map of powerlifting. 

Now to your problem . . . Usually when a person has been training for a number of years without results it is a sign of overtraining. Many people have had this problem and solved it by starting over at the ground floor. 

Let's say you are benching twice a week and have worked up to 300 pounds, and then your progress stops. You try adding extra sets for a while, then you take a short layoff. Nothing works. You just can't break through 300 pounds. I would guess that all your training sessions involved poundages that were over or at the 300 mark. This is an ego problem that we all must overcome. Sometimes we should swallow our pride and train with lighter weight for the sake of progress. What you should do is start over even though the weight will feel extremely light. Remember, you're trying to build strength, not test it. 

You should train twice a week. The first day do four singles: 
185x1 | 205x1 | 225x1 | 185x1. 

Now, on the second bench day warm up and do 165 for 3 reps in good form, no bouncing or cheating. 

The next week do four singles gain, but with an increase of 10 pounds. 
195x1 | 215x1 | 235x1 | 195x1.

Also take a 10 pound increase in your triple if you made your triple the week before. Other assistance work should include bicep, tricep and lat work of your choice. 

Check your grip also; make sure it's not too narrow. If the grip is too close, you could be putting too much work on your triceps and not enough on your pecs. 

This program will make you hungry for the next workout and this will get you in the right frame of mind to train. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  


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