About-Muscle.com Talk with Contest Prep Coach and Natural Bodybuilder Cliff Wilson. He has helped many athletes win natural bodybuilding contests, including 2012 Mr Illinois Champion Mike Neumann.
Could You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself And How You Got Involved In Fitness?
It is a pretty funny story. There were actually two incidents that led to me getting into training. I was in a weight lifting class in high school and on my last day of school we had to max out on the squat. A girl in my class squatted before me. She was a powerhouse and squatted 225lbs. below parallel. It was very impressive. I had to follow her and ended up getting trapped under 135lbs. They had to drag the bar off me. It was humiliating.
A few weeks later came the final straw for me being small and weak. I played basketball in college at a division 1 school and we started conditioning in the summer. The first day we reported for conditioning the coaches tested our body fat % and weighed us in. They proceeded to announce our stats in front of the whole team. Keep in mind that since this was a division 1 school many of these guys were genetic freaks. Most of them had a lot of muscle and weighed 185-250 lbs. at 7-10% body fat. Well, when my name was announced I was 156 lbs. and 14% body fat. It was official… I was skinny fat! That was the day I decided enough was enough. Things had to change
How Did You Get Involved In Preparing Athletes For Shows?
In 2009 I prepped a guy at my gym for his first show. He ended up winning Natural Mr. Illinois his first time out. At the show people began to ask about some of the things we did to bring him in so lean. Since my methods are quite different from what is often considered “typical bodybuilding protocol” I caught some attention. I was really fortunate to have some quality athletes put their faith in me and things really grew quickly from there. Three years ago I remember thinking how great it would be to eventually have a pro client. If you would have told me that in such a short time I would end up with over a dozen pro cards and even several pro wins I would have thought you had lost your mind. It blows my mind the quality people that I have been privileged to work with.
Where Did You Learn About Training and Nutrition Techniques?
In the beginning of my own training career I was opposed to a lot of the typical training and nutrition techniques that are still very popular in the sport today. I realized that I was not exactly naturally built for bodybuilding, so to get ahead I knew that I needed not only a lot of hard work, but also a better plan than what most were doing. If I was doing the same things as everyone else there was no way I was going to beat them.
For nutrition, I began by reading a lot of basic nutrition books that are typically assigned in to first year college students. I then just sort of worked my way up in difficulty and complexity of some of the texts that I read. This is where I built a foundation of my nutritional knowledge. Today I mostly study research articles and studies to get the most up to date information. Studies are usually free of the nonsensical ideas that are rampant in bodybuilding.
For training my influence has come from several places as I employ a lot of different techniques. I integrate a lot of Max-OT style training, invented by Paul Delia, with some older methods of training such as GVT and blood volume into single routines. Also, since the beginning I integrated some powerlifting into my routines as this was mostly brought to the bodybuilding world by Layne Norton.
I really don’t stick with one style of training. There are many different great styles of training. Every program that I utilize places emphasis on progressive overload and uses a variety of rep ranges. These are themes that are common in all of my training plans.
Your Rapid Backload Peaking Method That You Use Before Shows Has Gathered Quite Bit Of Attention. Care To Explain It A Bit?
This is probably the topic I answer the most questions about in my emails and messages from people. I want to first note that for any type of peak to be effective you have to be extremely lean BEFORE peak week starts. If you are not in shape a week out from the show then you will not be in shape on the day of the show. 98% of the time when people say that they are holding water they really just needed to lose 10 lbs.
The rapid backload is my preferred method of peaking. I would say that I use it probably 80% of my clients. There are just a few people with which this type of peaking is not suitable. This is a complex subject that involves carbs, water, sodium, and potassium so I will just have to give a brief overview.
I start by depleting carbs for 3-5 days which will cause the body to increase glycogen stores as an adaptive response to the deprivation. The day before the show I will then rapidly load carbs over the course of 24-36 hours instead of the more common 2-3 day load. The reason I do a single day load is because the body will not hold a supercompensated state unless carbs continue to be consumed at a high level. If carbs are ingested at a high level for 2-3 days then spillover will surely occur. With a 1 day load you can achieve a supercompensated state which will not need to be held for longer than the body will allow. Many people underestimate how many carbs a typical person can handle without spillover. My average male client will consume 750-1400 grams of carbs in the 36 hours before pre judging. I also keep sodium and water high during peak week. This flies in the face of the old school bodybuilding method of depleting water and sodium, which is frankly just bad practice and makes no sense at all.
Needless to say, the thought of consuming over 1000 grams of carbs, several thousand milligrams of sodium, and a few gallons of water the day before the show is pretty alarming to some people. I have received some strange reactions from people I have never worked with over this. While some absolutely love the idea of the extreme load, there are some who have come to despise me for it. I have been called everything from ignorant to a fraud. I am always shocked how people who have never tried it or even met me can have such strong feelings about it. In my experience people will always try to dismiss new ideas if it threatens what they currently believe. Others can say what they want, I’ll continue to chase what works.
What Does Your Diet Look Like?
I really do not have a set diet plan with food laid out each day. I count my macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) every day and I use different foods to reach my desired intake for the day. So I get a lot of variety. Right now I am eating 235 grams of protein, 500 grams of carbs, and 75 grams of fat per day, but when I diet for a show these numbers will be significantly cut though. So when I begin to cut, protein intake will remain about the same and I will pull away carbs and fat to begin losing fat. I also integrate high carb days once every 6th day.
How Do You Deal With Cravings?
It is simple; when I crave junk food, I eat it. Haha. I simply work the given junk food into my macronutrient total for the day. This applies to offseason and precontest. The notion that you have to eat chicken, broccoli, and brown rice for 6 meals a day to get lean is just wrong. I am not saying that Skittles should be your sole source of carbs because this is obviously not going to be the best thing for health, but if you want eat some ice cream every so often then make it fit into your plan and it will not set back progress and you will still get shredded.
I am addicted to lifting heavy! I ALWAYS have sets of 5 reps of less in my programs. Right now I am using a system of training I call the 5-12-20 plan. This training system is simple but effective and the goal is to set personal records in the 5 rep range, 12 rep range, and 20 rep range. I will use a different split for everyone based on their own individual strengths and weaknesses.
Here is the split I am using right now.
For the first part of the week I use different exercises than the second part of the week. For the individual workouts I choose exercises to perform in the 5, 12, & 20 rep ranges with the goal being to set a new personal record each week on the last set. If I do not achieve this then I sub that exercise out for a new one the following week. It keeps the intensity up as I am always in competition with myself.
Here is an example of my first three days of the program:
Bench Press – 4×5
DB Incline Press – 4×12
Smith Machine Press – 2×20
Pec Dec – 2×20
Dips – 3×5
Skullcrushers – 3×12
Cable Extensions – 3×20
Bent Barbell Row – 5×5
Hammer Strength High Lat Pulldown – 5×12
Cable Rows – 4×20
DB Overhead Press – 3×5
DB Lateral Raise – 3×12
Bent DB Lateral Raise – 3×20
Alt. DB Curl – 3×5
DB Hammer Curl – 3×12
Machine Preacher Curl – 3×20
Legs (Squat Day)
Squats – 4×5
Glute-Ham Raises – 3×5
Leg Extensions – 4×12
Leg Presses – 3×12
Walking Lunges – 3×20 (each leg, 40 steps)
Machine Leg Curl – 2×20
Weighted Sit-ups – 2×5
Cable Crunches – 2×12
Crunches – 2×20
Do You Have Any Up and Coming Clients That We Should Look Out For?
Oh boy, there are several that I would like to mention but I will keep it short. Kerri Brock Bolen is going to be competing in women’s bodybuilding. Not only am I confident that she will become a pro but I think that she will be immediately ready to step on the pro stage and mix it up with the best in the natural ranks. For men’s bodybuilding Tim Bird is a young pro that just made his pro debut. We will be working together for the first time for his shows next year and I expect he will turn some heads with his size and symmetry. When we combine that with some extreme conditioning he will be hard to beat.
What Are Your Favourite Supplements?
I am a firm believer in the basic proven supplements, here are a few of my favourites:
Whey Protein – releases a sudden rush of amino acids into the blood stream which has been proven to increase protein synthesis beyond slow releasing proteins.
Creatine Monohydrate – Is still the most proven form of creatine on the market and is an effective strength builder by allowing more creatine phosphate to be available for use within the body.
BCAAs – The 3 BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine have not only been proven to be effective at halting catabolic processes but leucine is also an effective signalling molecule that builds muscle through the mTOR pathway.
Beta-Alanine – Increases muscle carnosine levels which can delay the onset of fatigue in higher rep sets.
One supplement that I also like for natural lifters is D-aspartic acid. This is a natural test booster that has actually been shown to make a significant difference. It has only begun to gain popularity recently though. I prefer sodium-D-aspartic acid as most of the studies have used this form. While there are several good products that contain d-aspartic acid, Maxx Test from NRG-X Labs is one of my favourites. I am not sponsored by them, it is just a good product.
Do You Have Any Upcoming Contest That You Will Be Competiting In?
Since I have been so busy prepping people for shows I have not had time to compete myself. So that will be changing in 2013. I am still undecided as to which shows I will be doing but I will certainly make my way to the stage next year.
What Are Your Plans For The Future?
While I have had many clients win pro cards, this is something that I have yet to accomplish myself. This is a huge goal of mine and I will keep at it as long as it takes. I also will be looking to achieve a 600 lbs. deadlift and a 500 lbs. squat. When I first started training I couldn’t squat 135 lbs. and could only deadlift 155 lbs. Keep in mind that I wasn’t 14 years old either, I was 20! So achieving these numbers would be huge milestones for me. I am really looking to just keep progressing test the limits of what my body is capable of.
If Someone Wants To Connect With You How Can You Be Contacted?
You can connect with Cliff Wilson on the following networks: