The following text is from an interview with John Little from 2006, which originally appeared on John’s Max Contraction web site. It is republished here with John’s permission. It appears exactly as it did on his site except for minor changes to punctuation and the omission of a section promoting the training business I no longer work for.
We cover a lot of ground, including static contraction training, static holds and timed static contractions, max contraction training, the omega set, SuperSlow, Randy Rindfleish’s leverage machines, training for strength versus size, cardiovascular conditioning, etc. While I would make minor changes to some of my answers now, particularly with regards to timed static contraction and what is possible with them with equipment like the RenEx iMachines and ARX machines in isometric mode, most I would still agree with, particularly the TUL being used by some SuperSlow people being excessive.
An Interview With Personal Trainer Drew Baye
Drew Baye is without question one of the premiere personal trainers in the world. His knowledge of exercise science and its application to one’s personal fitness goals and aspirations is exceptional in the health and fitness industry.
He was a pivotal figure in the Superslow TM training franchises, leaving abruptly on principle when he believed that they turned a blind eye to scientific evidence that suggested that extended contraction times were not as effective as shorter ones with heavier weights.
I first heard of Drew Baye when someone e-mailed me a critique he had written on Max Contraction Training. I scanned his critique, prepared to dismiss it as the ramblings of a stooge for the bodybuilding orthodoxy – but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was an intelligent critique and that its author had obviously given the matter considerable thought and that he was quite knowledgeable about exercise physiology. I filed it away with the plan to review it more thoroughly for the purposes of rebuttal when I had more time. And then I received an e-mail from none other than Drew Baye. “This should be interesting,” I thought to myself as I opened it. I was surprised to learn that Drew had continued his research into my protocol by speaking with various physiology professors and experts in the fitness field and had formulated a theory that explained why the position of full muscular contraction (Max Contraction) was the most important position for building size and strength. In effect, he had reversed his previous critique upon discovering new evidence to the contrary that corresponded to certain facts he knew to be true from personal experience. His intellectual honesty impressed me greatly. He retracted his prior critique and shared with his readers the fruits of his own research into the matter. I recall years ago Mike Mentzer telling me, “The idea shouldn’t be ‘who’s right,’ but rather ‘what’s true?’” I recognized this same quality in Drew.
As time passed, we began to correspond more frequently, typically exchanging studies that had been performed in the exercise science arena and comparing notes. I soon discovered that Drew is a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge in exercise science and a tremendous resource for data checking. I asked Drew to write the Foreword to my latest book Advanced Max Contraction Training because I valued his opinion on my latest offering and also because of his knowledge of exercise science. I am very grateful that he agreed and thankful for his honest insights.
In the hopes of broadening people’s awareness of Drew’s background and experiences in training, I am pleased to present this interview with Drew Baye wherein he touches upon what drew him to the fitness field, his break with the Superslow TM protocol, his conversion (based upon his own research) to Max Contraction and the Omega Set, and his greatest successes as a personal trainer. True to form, he also detonates a few cherished but erroneous training myths along the way.
– John Little
John Little: What first got you interested in bodybuilding/strength training?
Drew Baye: In general, it was girls, actually.
John Little: (laughing) That’s a solid reason.
Drew: Yeah, I started working out with some friends of mine in a friend’s basement. I was in the seventh grade and our reason for doing it was just because we wanted to have bigger muscles and just be more impressive to the girls. So it wasn’t anything more complex than that at first.
John Little: What was your earliest training program like?
Drew Baye: It was just pretty basic, simple stuff. We didn’t know what we were doing so we just did whatever came to mind. Mostly benching, of course everybody wanted to know just “how much” we could bench. And then it was basic stuff – curls, overhead presses, triceps extensions and chin-ups and, occasionally, just really, really sloppy squats. None of us really knew what we were doing at the time, but for a bunch of kids in Junior High, we didn’t do too badly. I got more into it in High School with football and track and things like that, but I didn’t know really what I was doing then either. And even worse was going way off in the wrong direction because of what was taught to us by coaches and the influence of the muscle magazines that a lot of the other guys were bringing in.
John Little: What was the negative influence of the muscle magazines?
Drew Baye: They had all that high-volume, multiple sets, two hour workouts, six days a week routines and I followed those for a long period of time and just got nowhere. It was just overtraining. It was a ridiculous amount of overtraining.
John Little: What turned you around from that point?
Drew Baye: Well eventually, when I was in college, I started reading Mike Mentzer’s articles in his Heavy Duty TM column in IronMan magazine and I just dropped all the high volume stuff and everything else I had been doing and went to one of his programs that only had me training twice a week, following a routine that he had outlined in one of his columns.
John Little: And what were your results?
Drew Baye: Well, after years of making little or no meaningful progress and just grossly overtraining, I was able to go from the low 150s and not much definition, to a fairly lean 180 to 182 pounds.
John Little: And how long did this take you?
Drew Baye: That was over a period of maybe a half-year or so.
Strength And Size
John Little: I like that because one of the strong points of Mike’s writings was that, number one, you had to keep a progress chart, and, number two, the only meaningful way to ascertain progress was strength increases. And there’s been a lot of nonsense going around, particularly in Internet chat rooms, that building strength has nothing to do with building muscular size – which is false on its face. If you were able to build 30 pounds of muscle over six months as a result of what was essentially a “strength-building” program — that puts the lie to that.
Drew Baye: Absolutely. The idea that strength and muscular size are not related is absolutely absurd. A person can improve his performance in an exercise without gaining muscle size, because there are other factors affecting performance, but there is just NO WAY, it is impossible – absolutely impossible – for a person to get bigger muscles without becoming stronger; if you increase the cross-sectional area of a muscle that has to translate to an increase in strength. Nothing else is possible because you have more muscle mass contributing to the force produced when you are contracting with that muscle. It baffles me how anybody can think that you can become larger without also becoming stronger.
John Little: Their argument seems to be that while it’s true that a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle, you have to make the muscle bigger before it gets stronger. And that it is not only possible but preferable for you to remove the strength-building component from your workouts and somehow facilitate a hypertrophic response. Figure that one out.
Drew Baye: Well, I don’t think it’s quite that clear cut. As it’s becoming stronger it will become proportionately larger for that person. I mean if you have an increase in contractile tissue, you have an increase in tissue that is contributing to the force production of the muscle. I think that part of the confusion is the actual amount of strength increase relative to the size increase is going to vary considerably between individuals. For two different people, they can have the exact same increase and one of them might have a much greater relative increase in muscle size. There’s a study 1, and I can’t remember the exact title, but it had to do with interlukin, or some sort of a receptor, I think I sent you the study a while back, and it actually showed that the difference between the size gains relative to the strength gains strongly correlated with the type of receptors that a person had. Moreover, it theorized that the reason for some people gaining a larger amount of muscle mass relative to strength was that there was actually a compensation for having a lower quality of muscle; the muscle that they had wasn’t producing as much force per cross-sectional area, so, to compensate, the body actually had to make more of it – which also only goes to show how important it is to train at the highest possible level of intensity to get more muscle because the body is resistant to do it.
John Little: Right.
Drew Baye: It’s metabolically expensive and from a survival standpoint, you want to just have enough tissue to get the job done because anything else is going to require you to try and go and bring in that many more calories – which could be scarce – and that much more of a drain on energy and resources that could be going to other vital systems.
The Alure of Science
John Little: Well, as Mike Mentzer said, “a bodybuilding program is essentially a strength training program.” And the dramatic gains you experienced in muscle mass while following his strength-building program are proof of this fact. I’m curious if it was Mike’s writings and, perhaps more importantly, his science-based approach, that caused you to then move more in the direction of science in training? Because you are, in my estimation, probably the most literate person out there in terms of reading – and even wanting to read – the science reports, but digesting them thoroughly and looking at how the studies were done and even having the wherewithal to accurately critique a lot of them.
Drew Baye: Well, there are a lot of people out there who do this. I might just be one of the more vocal ones. There are some guys out there like Ryan Hall, a very sharp dude – he’s usually the guy I ask about new research. He stays on top of it even more than I do. I do my best but there are other guys out there who are really on top of it – Dr. Doug McGuff, too, I would include in there, as staying on top of things. But as I was getting into this I was also studying biology and exercise physiology at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. The plan was to eventually go into medical school. I had a cousin who was a doctor and I just thought it seemed like a good thing to go into. But the more I got into the exercise, the more interested I became in that and the more I wanted to do something in the field of fitness. Frankly, I think it is probably doing people more good from this end, in helping prevent potential problems than helping fix them after the fact. Not to take away anything from the important work doctors do, but I’d rather have people prevent situations than have to deal with them afterwards.
Considering Max Contraction
John Little: How did you first hear of Max Contraction and what led to your interest in this approach to training?
Drew Baye: I had been working with Ken Hutchins and he had read your Static Contraction Training book (McGraw Hill, New York, 1998), which I believe he had borrowed from Ellington Darden. And we started experimenting with that at the Superslow TM facility over here in Altamonte Springs, Florida, where I was working with him at the time. This was where I had first heard of your work – your pioneering work – with motionless exercise. And Ken wanted to use it primarily with people who had different injuries or had difficulty performing full-range exercise for various reasons – joint problems, osteoarthritis, etc. Anybody who couldn’t perform full-range exercise we were using Static Contraction with in a position where they could apply as much force as possible without irritating the joint or whatever was causing the problem. Although Ken’s version of it I think was very, very much modified from what was in the Static Contraction book in that he actually had people going for two-minutes [a much longer hold time than I would recommend – J.L.] and there wasn’t an actual “weight” used. The machine was set in a fixed position, so that you couldn’t lift it and it wouldn’t go down if you let go of it either. And what he would have people do is contract against this for about 30 seconds at a light effort, and then gradually increase it to about a 50 percent effort for another 30 seconds and then almost as hard as they could for another 30 seconds and then as hard as they possibly could for another 30 seconds. And, in retrospect, in thinking about it now, some of my initial negative perceptions of static training could be related to the fact of how Ken had people doing it, which was far from effective. There was no actual back-pressure; they were working against a perfectly immobile resistance and the resistance was entirely dependent upon the volitional effort of the subject. And, you know, a lot of people simply will not contract as hard as they are absolutely are physically capable of if they can get away with it.
John Little: I should think that such an approach would make it difficult to measure not only effort but also to track progress.
Drew Baye: Right. I think a lot of clients were faking it, frankly. If you lift an actual weight into position for them to hold, such as you have always advocated, they can’t fake it. And it also provides you with measurable results from workout to workout. Without that kind of feedback I also think there wasn’t that much incentive for the people to put as much into it, which otherwise they would have. Seeing it done in that way, I think, probably biased me somewhat with regard to isometric or static exercise in general. But then again, it wasn’t really Static Contraction, it was just the odd application of it that was being used; i.e., that there was no real resistance and the time of contraction was probably way too long for them to maintain an absolute, extremely high level of force application. I think they probably would have gotten better results if they had shortened the hold times and focused on going all-out from the very start.
Max Contraction And Cross-Bridge Attachments
John Little: Right. Well, how did you go from a decidedly negative view of Max Contraction – based upon Ken’s interpretation of it – to your present vantage point of believing that the position of Max Contraction is the most productive range for training a muscle?
Drew Baye: Well, during the time that I was working with Ken I didn’t really focus on that point – at least not at that time. However, I had received a lot of questions about it from other people in the Superslow TM community who wanted to know what Ken was doing with it. And, of course, Ken was really, really busy, so I ended up answering questions from people. I was on the Internet all the time and Ken just really didn’t get on the Internet much. He was too busy for it and really wasn’t interested in it. So a lot of times I would field questions from people on your protocols of Static Contraction and Max Contraction. And, of course, in answering these questions I had to put a bit more thought into it and one of the things that was brought up by the Superslow TM people was the logic behind the position of full muscular contraction that you advocate. Arthur Jones had also indicated that this was the absolute most important position in an exercise.
Now at first I had been thinking that it probably wasn’t so important where in the range of motion a person performed a static contraction or hold with regards to joint position. Arthur had stated that the only position where all the muscle fibers could be fully contracted was in the position of full muscular contraction – but I was thinking at the time, “Well, that’s the only position where they could all be fully shortened, but not all of them would be contracting at the same time because you can only use a limited amount of fibers at any one time; you can only recruit so many motor units.” And from that standpoint the position of contraction probably didn’t make that as much of a difference as long as the weight was heavy enough – as long as the force application was high enough. (laughs) Later on … thinking along totally different lines after hearing a presentation that Ryan Hall did on more recent research on hypertrophy, and considering the mechanics of micro-trauma, I began to see the whole issue of the position of Max Contraction in a different light. I began to look more closely into the role of micro-trauma in the hypertrophy process, how that damage occurs, and that some of it was probably damage to the cross bridges within a muscle during the negative part of a repetition. As you know, as a muscle fatigues there is less calcium ion availability and other things, and you know when a person dies, of course, they go into a state of rigor mortis, where their muscles become stiff. A similar situation – on a much, much smaller scale – occurs as people fatigue during exercise, and you have some cross bridges which might not be able to detach – but of course all the rest of the muscle is attempting to lengthen, so there’s nothing else that can happen except damage to those cross-bridges. And the degree to which cross bridges can be formed depends of course upon the overlap of the myofibrils – and the more overlap, the greater potential number of cross bridges that can be formed. And if you look at it that way it makes more sense to go into the fully contracted position during exercise. And if you’re going to do a static hold there’s really no other place that could be better than the Max Contraction position, because in that position you have the greatest potential for cross bridge attachments to be formed and, if you’re using a heavy enough weight, once you get to a point where you can’t hold it and that muscle has to lengthen, you’ve got more potential cross bridges that aren’t going to be able to let go and that are going to be damaged during that brief lengthening. And of course there’s other structures that are being subjected to some degree of damage as well – cell walls, etc., – but overall being in that position of Max Contraction is what’s going to contribute to the micro-trauma and to the degree of growth stimulation. So if you’re going to do any type of isometric or static exercise, in this case you’re only limited to one position for – well, depending upon the specifics of how you’re going to perform it – at least for most of the time, like on a Max Contraction or in the Omega Set, wherein eventually you are also performing some degree of negative work, but the majority of the contraction is in the Max Contraction position – that’s it. That’s the spot!
John Little: Right – it is the best position to then apply weight or load for optimal growth stimulation.
Drew Baye: Right. Of course that can also depend on the equipment you’re using. If the equipment you have doesn’t allow for a meaningful resistance in the fully contracted position then it really doesn’t help you to the degree it should. You know, some barbell exercises, or some really poorly designed machines, if you go into the fully contracted position and there’s really nothing much there for you to work against, it won’t do you much good. But that’s a fault of the tools being used rather than a fault of the method. In which case the best thing to do is just drop them and get better tools.
John Little: I was impressed as well, of course, in reading your Foreword to Advanced Max Contraction Training, that like most of us in the high intensity field, you have tried all of the various high intensity training techniques to stimulate greater muscle size and strength – positive failure, negative-only, forced positives, forced negatives, etc. I recall doing these while in university, using the old Nautilus protocol of three-days per week and literally cracking my head on a desk in Psychology class as a result of simply being overtrained to the point of exhaustion.
Drew Baye: I think the problem with a lot of that is that trainees take those techniques and apply them at the end of a set – things which just extend the amount of work that a person was performing, which if they were already training extremely hard to begin with, it’s almost like piling on a second set. If you’re already training with an extremely high level of intensity, then you have to be extremely, extremely cautious to avoid overtraining. And it probably would have been more effective if, instead of doing forced reps or forced negatives as an afterthought, if they had planned to incorporate that into the set within a reasonable amount of time. If, for example, they knew that they wanted to do forced reps or forced negatives or anything like that, rather than go to failure with the then standard 8 to 12 reps in 40 to 70-seconds, they should have used the heavier weight that only allowed them to go to perhaps half that time, and then maybe done just a very small amount – maybe one or two forced reps – afterwards. In this manner they would have jumped the intensity way up without extending it for so long that they would have ended up using up so much energy. In other words, make it a lot, lot harder, rather than making it longer. By simply adding these techniques onto their sets they were accomplishing the opposite of what they wanted to accomplish. Besides, if you know going into the workout that you’re going to have to do a couple of forced reps and a couple of forced negatives at the end of a regular set – if you know this going into the workout – I think even people who really push themselves and go all out, still hold a little back knowing that the absolute hardest part is coming right at the end of the set. And if you know it’s going to be shorter, if you know that you’re only going to be doing this much or roughly within a range, I think you’re going to put more into it. And I think that’s a major thing in favor of the very, very brief set times.
The Omega Set TM
John Little: I agree with you. Moving on from this, how were your experiences in using the Omega Set TM in your training?
Drew Baye: Painful! (laughs) To say the least! The trickiest part for me was in convincing my training partner to repeatedly lift heavier weights for me to get back into the fully contracted position. We were experimenting with Rest-Pause for a while and then just decided to switch over to just do the Omega Set TM after I had read the preview you had sent me for the book. And it hurt! I actually first tried it in my garage using a barbell and a squat rack to do curls. I would load up the barbell and then squat down to get into the fully contracted position for a barbell curl and then stand up and lean forward a little bit so that I had meaningful resistance in the fully contracted position. I used a heavy enough weight so that I could only hold it for about maybe a quarter or half a second before lowering it. I did three or four reps like that and … just pain! You could feel the deep fiber stimulation. I mean, my biceps were just, just sore. Of course a feeling isn’t an accurate gauge of an exercise’s effectiveness, but having experimented with that for a while after having done the Rest-Pause training, which we got good results with, I noticed even better results. In my arms in particular, which are traditionally one of the areas that I have most trouble with, responded right away. I mean, my chest, my traps – I could look at a barbell and those grow, but my arms I have always had difficulty with. So the Omega Set TM was really helpful. The only time that I had ever made any significant progress with my arms before was doing the old negative chins and negative dips on the old Nautilus Multi-Exercise unit. But this was the first time that I actually saw such rapid progress in my arms. I mean, I didn’t measure them — I wish now that I had, but this was the first time that I actually saw such immediate, noticeable, obvious, “in the mirror” results in terms of arm size — from any type of particular training method.
Returning to Competition
John Little: Speaking of which, I understand that you are now actually preparing to compete in bodybuilding contests again. Is that true?
Drew Baye: Yeah, depending upon how the diet goes I’m probably going to do a show up in Buffalo, New York – the N.G.A. It’s a drug-tested, natural contest. They have another one in Florida in November, so depending upon the situation at the time and the finances if I can swing it – obviously most of my money these days goes to diapers and baby food and whatnot. So, if not the New York show, then the show closer to here in Orlando. And we’ll be using Max Contraction Training in with the regular high intensity training. I’ll think we’ll be using Max primarily to focus in on the weaker bodyparts because it is pretty hard stuff. And if we were going to do it with every bodypart, I think it would just take a long time to recover from.
John Little: Right. Given that you are already advanced, I shouldn’t think you will be adding a lot more size to your frame, but the key is simply improvement. If you can bring up bodyparts that you haven’t been able to bring out to their maximum in the past, and improve your appearance, then that’s success – quite irrespective even of final placings. How frequently will you be training in preparation for your contest?
Drew Baye: Right now we’re doing just once a week – just a full body H.I.T. routine, similar to what Ell Darden has in his last book The New High Intensity Training (Rodale, 2004), but we keep it pretty limited – usually eight exercises or less — and never more than one heavy compound exercise for each major muscle group. Usually one heavy leg movement, one heavy pushing, one heavy pulling movement, and then the rest of it is just the smaller muscle groups – calves, neck, forearms, maybe something for the traps, and then occasionally lower back stuff. But as far as the main muscle groups, we limit it to just one exercise. Any more than that at a really high level of intensity very quickly leads to overtraining.
The Best Max Contraction Equipment
John Little: On a side note, we just received some equipment that is designed for Max Contraction by Randy – from Negative-Edge. In fact, he’s called it the Max Contraction machine, and what a difference it has made for Max Contraction and Omega Set TM Training! Not only is it easy on your training partner, but the degree of stimulation is absolutely phenomenal – so you’re right about the “tools.” We had used old generation Nautilus machines because the cams were bigger and the amount of effective resistance delivered to the muscle in the fully contracted position is greater, but it’s nothing compared to the Randy’s Max Contraction machines.
Drew Baye: In my opinion, and I’ve worked on a lot of plate loaded equipment – I’ve worked on Hammer Strength, Hoist, the MedX Avenger equipment, Southern Exercise, Lam Equipment, and even some of the obscure things – but as far as plate loaded exercise machines are concerned, and leverage machines in general, I think the Eccentric–Edge Equipment is the first really big step forward in designs. And mainly because they really, really took into consideration – of course their focus was on negative-only training when they were developing them – but these were really the first machines to allow a person to train in that manner efficiently. Like I said before, to do the Max Contraction Training and the Omega Set TM, the hardest part was actually getting somebody else to help lift the weights – or here, training by myself, having to use the squat rack to assist in lifting the amount of weight I needed to thoroughly stimulate my biceps, made it difficult. But with the Eccentric-Edge equipment takes all of the problems out of doing it. You don’t need to have two or three training partners to do it. Even more convenient, because of the leverages you don’t need a ton of plates to provide a lot of resistance, which also saves a lot of work for the training partners and it also saves a lot of energy for you if you have to train by yourself on the equipment. Because if you can’t get somebody else to work with you, and you’re going from machine to machine just doing a regular positive-negative dynamic style of training, you can focus more on your workout, rather than dragging plates back and forth between the weight trees and the machines.
John Little: Right, which becomes a workout unto itself.
Drew Baye: Right. From the standpoint of a trainer, I wouldn’t go with anything else for a training facility. The worst part of working with clients on plate loading equipment is having to load and unload machines all day long. Now with this stuff, because of the leverages, you can get by with much, much less weight. And because of the ability to apply heavier negatives and things of that nature with the lever arms, you can have them train much, much harder without working yourself to death over a period of days. So you can actually save your own progress; you can prevent yourself from overtraining while training your clients.
John Little: Right. I couldn’t believe the difference – even in the short week since we’ve had them in the gym. Particularly with something like the Omega Set TM because your partner brings it up to the Max Contraction position right away and you have “zero” rest for the trainee. And the force output has to be absolutely optimal, which of course increases the fiber involvement and stimulation.
Drew Baye: Just phenomenal stuff.
Fitness Industry Fallacies
John Little: I want to now pick your brain a bit on some of the fallacies that are rampant in the fitness industry. I can throw out topics for you to comment on, but I want to start by asking you what is your biggest beef that you encounter now as one of the world’s leading personal trainers? What’s the biggest misconception that people have regarding exercise?
Drew Baye: The absolute biggest misconception that I come across with clients – it’s almost everybody – is the belief that you “have to do” some sort of steady-state activity to improve cardiovascular sufficiency. And it amazes me that it has persisted this long for I would have figured it would have been put to rest in the mid 1970s with Project Total Conditioning at West Point. And even more recently, I think it was in 2004, there was an announcement at the World – I think it was some sort of physician’s conference, actually right here in Orlando, where they presented the results of a study showing that six months of Nautilus style, high intensity training produced the same or better results in aerobic conditioning than an equivalent amount of time doing traditional aerobic exercise. I mean, you can get cardiovascular benefits from going out and jogging and doing all these other activities, but you can actually do it with the strength training without all the risks inherent in all those other activities. You know, the pounding of the joints and the overworking the body and losing muscle.
On a bodybuilding standpoint, a lot of people still believe that you absolutely need to do cardio to “get ripped” – which absolutely isn’t true. The first time I competed I was doing just one high intensity workout a week and no cardio – none. No, actually, scratch that – no “aerobics.” Technically, high intensity training is cardio. In fact, it is the safest and most effective and most efficient form of cardiovascular conditioning. But I got absolutely shredded with no aerobics. The guys that work at our headquarters up in Ohio also competed in natural bodybuilding contests and they were also shredded when they competed – and they also do not do aerobics. What people don’t get is that it’s really just a matter of calories in versus calories out and that just going and doing the additional activity doesn’t really burn enough calories to make enough of a difference and it certainly doesn’t make it worth the amount of time expended. You figure if somebody is just doing activity for the sake of burning calories their time probably isn’t worth very much, especially when you can simply achieve the same effect by not taking in those calories in your diet and preserving more muscle mass in the process because you’re now not out overstressing your body with all that extra activity.
John Little: Absolutely true. And another one I wanted to lob over the plate for you is the idea that you have to roll around on a “stability ball.”
Drew Baye: It’s absurd. Just absurd. The whole idea that you have to do any of that to train stabilizing muscles is ridiculous. The most ridiculous thing about this is that if you ask these people what a “stabilizer” is most of them won’t have the slightest idea. And even the guys who are really into that don’t seem to understand that “stabilizer” isn’t so much a classification of muscle as it is a role that a muscle can play. A muscle that normally acts as a stabilizer in one movement could be the prime mover in another movement; it can be a synergist, antagonist – whatever – it’s just a role. It’s a classification of what a muscle is doing during a particular type of activity or bodily movement. And if you want to get at a muscle the best way to do it is with an exercise that directly addresses that muscle, rather than depending on its involvement just as a stabilizer in another exercise. The muscles in the trunk, for example – obviously you can’t increase your squat or your deadlift to a significant degree without all the supporting muscles also being stimulated. But that’s not nearly as ideal for those muscles as if you were to do a direct exercise, such as a back extension machine or a properly designed abdominal machine. All the rolling around and doing things purposefully… if what they’re trying to do is make the exercise that they’re doing more difficult for the muscles that are acting as stabilizers they should actually – if they actually sat down and thought about it, what they’re trying to when they’re making the exercise unstable is that they are trying to make it more difficult for the muscles that are acting as stabilizers. If they really wanted to make it difficult for the muscles that are acting as stabilizers they would simply do an exercise specifically for those muscles where they could target it more effectively. The whole thing is absurd. It’s actually, oddly enough, a fad that is not new. David Landau mentioned something about it being popular in gymnasiums during the early part of the last century. David’s the history expert.
John Little: Re-treading old tires.
Drew Baye: Oh yeah.
The Giants of Bodybuilding Science
John Little: Who, in your opinion, are really the giants of the bodybuilding science field? The individuals upon whose shoulders we stand as we look to advance this discipline?
Drew Baye: Arthur Jones undoubtedly. His contribution and his influence on everybody else is what really … Arthur brought science to exercise and he brought rational thinking to exercise. And if he hadn’t been involved, given his background as a wildlife film producer, I’m sure the world would have had a lot of really interesting nature films and things of that sort, but the exercise field would probably still be in the dark ages. Mike Mentzer would also come to mind, because Mike was the first one who really took a lot of what Arthur had first said and really thought about how to apply that precisely rather than just a general, overall exercise philosophy without any real specifics as to training harder, training less frequently. He figured out not just “less” but what was the specific amount, the specific frequency that would be appropriate for an individual.
John Little: Those would be the “two pillars,” in my estimation as well, of that whole enterprise. Any other names come to mind or is everyone else pretty much footnotes to those two?
Drew Baye: They are the two big ones that come to mind. I think that Ellington Darden deserves a lot of credit for keeping the torch lit and then running with that. He’s obviously done more than most people I can think of to popularize high intensity training and to keep a lot of Arthur’s exercise philosophy going. And still writing about it! Still putting out sensible information on high intensity training for people. I would also include you, of course, with Max Contraction, and keeping that Heavy Duty TM column alive in Ironman – if it wasn’t for the Heavy Duty TM column I probably would never have gotten started with high intensity or probably would have gotten around to it later than I did. I would also include Ken Hutchins in there too; I don’t agree with everything that he says regarding exercise, but more than anyone else I think Ken really was the person that made people focus on rep speed as an important factor in exercise. Maybe 10-10 isn’t the best way for everybody to train outside of people with osteoporosis or with injuries requiring a lot of caution, but at least he made people focus on the need to really pay attention to how they’re moving during exercise and on the importance of trying to train in a low force fashion, so that you can get a high level of intensity without wrecking yourself in the process.
John Little: Right. Ken also, I think, credit to him as well in other areas. He was a good slayer of sacred cows in this industry too, and I think that was important. To at least have a point wherein – although we may disagree with certain derivative aspects of exercise, I think that everyone in high intensity is on the same page in terms of fundamentals – but I think Ken defended that very vociferously at a time when there weren’t a lot of people that were willing to do that. And even his rant against physiologists and physiotherapists I think is long overdue.
Drew Baye: Yeah. You’d think that having the scientific background that is required to get into physical therapy that physical therapists would have more of a clue about exercise. But that is something that is changing now I’m pleased to report. When I was working for the Superslow Zone there was discussion – because we had some physical therapists that were involved – there was discussion of comments made at one of the national conventions about the importance of people focusing on high intensity training and that simply having people do these easy exercises with rubber bands wasn’t going to work anymore. If they weren’t going to have people do – and I think they specifically used the phrase “high intensity training” that they were not going to get much out of the therapy. Hopefully that will be a field that will help bridge all that over into the medical community because there are still a lot of doctors – with rare exceptions – that really don’t understand proper strength training.
On The Break With SuperSlow TM
John Little: I agree, and for the record – because there has been a lot of rumor and misinformation – do you want to now set the record straight as to why you broke from Superslow?
Drew Baye: A couple of reasons. My main reason was that the Superslow Zone is recommending a protocol that I don’t believe is the most effective way to train and they are recommending it as the way for all of the clients to be trained. They use of course a Superslow repetition speed of 10-seconds up and 10-seconds down, and it simply isn’t necessary to move that slowly for a person to be safe. There have been force-gauge experiments conducted as well as mathematical models provided to me by various professional engineers in different fields which have all shown that once you start going slower than maybe four or five seconds lifting or lowering there’s no significant reduction in force. As long as you’re going about four or five seconds the difference in peak force that you’re exposed to is maybe going to be maybe about 1% or less than that and the 10/10. And even if you’re doing the old traditional Nautilus protocol of 2-seconds up, 4-seconds down, the actual difference in force is only along 3 or 4%. And how you reverse direction is far more important – in terms of safety – -than how long you take to get from the start to the finish; if you reverse direction smoothly that’s going to do far more to make the exercise safer than to go at a particular speed on the way in between.
John Little: And what was the second point that underscored the reason for your departure?
Drew Baye: The second point was that they were still recommending, despite tons of evidence to the contrary, that people do exercises with weights allowing sets going on from anywhere from a minimum of 100-seconds up to a maximum of 180-seconds. They’re talking a minute and 40-seconds up to 3-minutes. And I actually wrote a review of all the available research that had been done on Superslow TM that looked at its effect on strength and in the studies that used a similar Time Under Load – up around a minute and a half to 3-minutes – the strength increases were dismal compared to the studies where Superslow was performed using a more conventional duration of 40 to 70-seconds. And I presented this to them and they still wouldn’t change their position. So I figured, “If they’re still going to do what they’re doing in spite of evidence to the contrary it’s not something I can be involved with.” I still believe that it’s an appropriate way for some people to train under certain circumstances and certain times and it should be used when it’s appropriate – but it’s not the Be-all, End-all. And you can’t train everybody that comes into the facility like they are an 80-year-old woman with osteoporosis. What happened with me leaving them is, in a nutshell, they refused to modify or update the protocol to reflect new information and refused to even consider any information or evidence that contradicted their position on exercise and on the protocol. Most specifically, their refusal to acknowledge new information showing that it was not necessary or even beneficial to move any slower than about a four to five-second lifting and lowering cadence with regards to reducing or minimizing peak forces or that there were no significant improvements in muscular loading moving any more slowly than that, as well as the insistence on continuing to recommend a very, very high Time Under Load – over a minute and a half to three minutes – despite the fact that most of the research on hypertrophy shows a strong correlation between load and growth stimulation, which would indicate that you need heavier weights, which are incompatible with very long set durations. And then there were studies that directly compared Superslow TM when performed with both lower and higher Time Under Loads and the longer Time Under Loads produced abysmal strength improvement. I mean there was some strength improvement but you would expect that from any previously untrained subject on any protocol that was at least progressive in nature. But when Superslow TM using a minute and a half to three minute Time Under Load is compared with Superslow TM using about 50 to 70-seconds – which is what Wayne Wescott used in his studies, it’s obvious that the shorter Time Under Loads are far more effective for stimulating strength – and of course by extension size increases.
John Little: It’s the old intensity/duration continuum.
Drew Baye: I don’t understand why that’s so hard for them to accept but they just refused to change and I could not be involved with an organization that would just outright ignore evidence that contradicted their positions. At least they could have given consideration to it and at least they could have objectively looked at and considered that maybe they needed to make a change.
John Little: It didn’t really have to be an “either-or” scenario; they could have said, “For those of you who are interested in size and strength, here’s your TUL – you can still move the weight up and down at 10/10 but it’s just going to be performed with a heavy enough load that your TUL will be in the neighborhood of 40 to 70-seconds. Those of you looking to rehabilitate or who are elderly or too frail to use the heavier load and shorter TULs, you can use the longer TULs with lighter weight and still make progress with it – albeit perhaps not as rapidly.”
Drew Baye: Yeah. Well, actually even with the elderly it should be used as a “break in” – and nothing else. Research on osteoporosis shows that a heavy load is essential in increasing bone mineral content and bone density – and that’s the biggest benefit of strength training to most elderly people. True, they should start out with a lighter weight and a longer Time Under Load for the purpose of learning how to properly perform the exercises and rehearsing proper form so that they can gradually be eased up to a heavy level. But even with the elderly – even with the very frail people – it should just be used as a start so that they can be eased into it. Eventually though, if they want results, they have to use a meaningful level of resistance and if they’re using a meaningful level of resistance they simply can’t do it for a long period of time.
His Greatest Successes As A Personal Trainer
John Little: Absolutely. Now, focusing on some of your accomplishments now for some people who might want to seek out your counsel for personal training, what would you say are some of your greatest successes as a trainer in terms of training clients for both fat loss and muscle gain?
Drew Baye: The biggest success that I’ve had with fat loss was actually one of my former bosses. Pat Grim, who was a co-owner of Gold’s Gym, Green Bay – now they call it Title Town Fitness – he was tremendously overweight; he was over 300 pounds. And I can’t remember the specific dates but between mid Spring of 1994 and around September of that year, he had lost nearly 80 pounds of bodyfat while gaining a significant amount of muscle. He went from just above 300 pounds to down in the 220s, so he still had a little bit to go but that was the most body fat I’ve every had anybody lose. Of course, a lot of the credit has to go to the client; I provided the guidance, I trained him but he’s the one who did the work.
John Little: And all you had him do was employ the basic high intensity training principles coupled with a reduced calorie diet?
Drew Baye: Yeah, nothing fancy with the diet, just moderately reduced calorie diet – nothing high, nothing low. Just moderate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats with an emphasis on drinking a lot of cold water too. That was also something we did a lot of with our clients back then.
John Little: And the same training frequency – i.e., once a week hard training?
Drew Baye: He was training once a week. And as a matter of fact we did the routine so many times I can tell you exactly what he did – he did a leg press on a Hammer Strength machine, he did a pulldown also on a Hammer Strength machine – these were somewhat older Hammer Strength machines, before they had the iso-lateral feature – the Hammer Strength Chest Press, the Hammer Strength Row and a Calf Raise. So it was a real basic, real brief routine. He didn’t do a lot of exercise and he didn’t do it that often but he put everything into it. He was incredibly hard working.
John Little: And how about muscle gain? Was he also your best example of muscle gain?
Drew Baye: No, oddly enough my best example of muscle gain quit because he didn’t think he was “gaining enough.” He was an example of unrealistic expectations. In 1997 I had a client come to me who was in the 140s, and he wasn’t a real tall guy, maybe 5’5” or 5’6”. He wasn’t a big guy and he just wanted to be a bodybuilder. He didn’t have what appeared to be the genetics to build a large degree of muscle mass and I tried to explain to him that not everybody can look like that. And that when you go and look at these bodybuilding magazines, most of the people – if not all – are using steroids and a variety of other growth drugs. But I guess he didn’t want to accept that fact, didn’t want anybody to burst his bubble there and ruin his fantasy of someday looking like a bodybuilder. Well we got him up into the mid 150s over a period of about 3 months and to go from the low 140s up into the mid 150s in a few months and have it be just muscle – because he did get leaner – I thought was a pretty impressive transformation. I personally would have been very happy with that rate of muscle gain, but he was frustrated that he wasn’t “bigger” and actually ended up quitting after that. He had excellent, excellent muscle gain but very, very unrealistic expectations from the beginning, which I think is one of the most frustrating things as a trainer: having to let everyone know that not everybody is going to look like a fitness model or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Mike Mentzer, or Frank Zane or whoever they should happen to want to look like. They’ll have to want to look like the best “them.”
John Little: Even that rate of gain is tremendous. If you stack up the better part of 15 one-pound beefsteaks – and that’s quite a lot of muscle to gain within a three month period.
Drew Baye: I think if he had just stuck around a little longer – not that he would ever look like a bodybuilder; he just didn’t have the skeletal structure for it; he was a short ectomorph; narrow shoulders and didn’t have long muscle bellies. But we managed to take somebody who was below average in his genetics and get him up to at least a respectable level of muscularity. He didn’t look like a bodybuilder by any stretch of the imagination but he did look a lot better than he did when he first came in. I guess it just wasn’t enough for him though.
John Little: He was upset because his station wagon wouldn’t fly him to the moon.
Drew Baye: (laughs) Exactly!
John Little: Any parting comments Drew that you want to touch on that perhaps I might have missed?
Drew Baye: Nothing else really comes to mind immediately except that over the next few months I’m very, very eager to see what kind of results you can produce up there with a combination of Max Contraction Training and that Eccentric-Edge equipment. That equipment will allow you to get the best possible results from that protocol. I mean it’s made for it, so I think it’s the best possible marriage of protocol and equipment.
John Little: Well, I have you to thank for that because Randy got in touch with me after you spoke to him about Max Contraction.
Drew Baye: I told him and Charlie Haire that they had to talk to you about this because that’s what their equipment is for – to make it easy for a trainer to help the user get the heaviest possible weight into position to do a Max Contraction or a Negative-Only or a Hyper – any of the TRULY High Intensity Training — protocol. If you’ve met Randy, you’ll see that he’s got a lot of genetic potential. I think he should focus on Max Contraction for a while; I think he would get even bigger.
John Little: I also wanted to get your opinion on the concept that is bandied about recently that a Max Contraction is good but it should be done when the muscle is fully stretched, rather than contracted. This seems to be ludicrous.
Drew Baye: I don’t think it needs to be fully stretched. There needs to be some negative movement because the majority of the research seems to show that load is the primary factor but during the negative is when most of the micro-trauma occurs. I think the Omega Set is probably the best use of the negative because it’s starting in the fully contracted position, you’re holding an incredibly heavy weight, it causes as much of the muscle – as many motor units as possible within the muscle – to be recruited, and you’ve got all of those cross bridges being formed so that you’re setting the muscle up so that you can get the most micro-trauma out of the negative portion. Obviously you have to recruit as many motor units as possible so that you’ve got the muscle involved in the set so that it can be stimulated, which is going to happen if you’re in that position of full muscular contraction and if you’re using a heavy enough weight, which of course is benefited by using that equipment that allows you to do that. And it probably doesn’t even need to be anywhere near a full range negative – maybe not even half range – there just has to be some negative movement. You know, you are measuring cross-bridges in thousandths of an inch, so you probably don’t have to move them too far to damage them. You might almost be able to stay in or stay close to, or within maybe an inch of the fully contracted position and do real, real short movements – which is what the Omega Set recommends.
John Little: I was impressed with your research into cross bridge attachments and their role in the process of stimulating size and strength increases.
Drew Baye: Well that research is what led me to concur with you about your point about the position of full muscular contraction being the most significant for stimulating strength and size increases. The next couple of years will be interesting. Dr. Stan Linstead who is doing a lot of research on the effects of eccentric action, and Dr. Mike Reedy at Duke University who is doing a lot of research on exactly what’s going on the cross bridge mechanics and what the difference is between the positive and negative portion of a repetition and what is really involved in stimulating increases in muscular size. Of course they’re doing all this for AIDS patients, and people with Multiple Sclerosis and Muscular Dystrophy – people who’s lives, literally, depend on them being able to maintain body tissues. But of course as bodybuilders we can benefit from all the related sciences. But keeping an eye on what those guys are doing will continue to shed more light on information we can use in trying to get bigger and stronger muscles.
1.) Journal of Applied Physiology; Association of interleukin-15 protein and interleukin-15 receptor genetic variation with resistance exercise training responses; Steven E. Riechman,1 G. Balasekaran,1 Stephen M. Roth,2 and Robert E. Ferrell;1Department of Human Genetics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260; and 2Department of Kinesiology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742; Submitted 6 May 2004 ; accepted in final form 16 July 2004.
Interleukin-15 (IL-15) is an anabolic cytokine that is produced in skeletal muscle and directly affects muscle anabolism in animal and in vitro models. The contribution of IL-15 variability in muscle responses to 10 wk of resistance exercise training in young men and women was examined by measuring acute and chronic changes in IL-15 protein in plasma and characterizing genetic variation in the IL-15 receptor- gene (IL15RA). Participants trained 3 days a week at 75% of one repetition maximum, performing three sets (6–10 repetitions) of 13 resistance exercises.Plasma IL-15 protein was significantly increased (P < 0.05)immediately after acute resistance exercise but did not changewith training and was not associated with variability in muscle responses with training. A single nucleotide polymorphism in exon 7 of IL15RA was strongly associated with muscle hypertrophy and accounted for 7.1% of the variation in regression modeling.A polymorphism in exon 4 was also independently associated with muscle hypertrophy and accounted for an additional 3.5% of the variation in hypertrophy. These results suggest that IL-15 is an important mediator of muscle mass response to resistance exercise training in humans and that genetic variation in IL15RA accounts for a significant proportion of the variability in this response.