A scientific, practical & logical critique of Dr. Brad Schoenfeld’s ‘M.A.X. Muscle Plan’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2015 by newuxtreme

Disclaimer :- All I’m trying to do with this post is make some sense of the stuff I have read from either the program or his recommendations, which do not go hand in hand with other scientific and practical recommendations by either his peers, also people I learn from, or in some cases even himself.

Who I am.

Without making this too long, certified in Personal & Home training from multiple different organizations, Sports Nutritionist, and the youngest NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist in my country. More importantly a passionate student of all science related to training and nutrition, I have been reading and practicing circa 2008, and a quite seriously since 2011. Some of the people and the works from whom I have learnt a lot that I haven’t mentioned below are Tom Venuto, Tudor Bompa, Vladimir Zsatiorsky & Verkoschansky amongst many others, whose work I use to analyze the program and other recommendations.


Who Dr. Brad Schoenfeld is.

I assume you already know which is why you are here reading this review.


My past history and experiences with Dr. Brad Schoenfeld’s work.

I have had a very tough time understanding a very few people’s work in the industry, one of which is Dr. Schoenfeld. I have no problems understanding most of the works of people like Dr. Jacob Wilson, Dr. Layne Norton, Dr. Mike Zourdos, Alan Aragon(the Science geeks and nerds, who are absolute complete bosses in their fields and from whom I can most certainly learn something or the other new, along with proper scientific evidence and data) and also John Meadows & Shelby Starnes (I learn from what they share the most, which is their experiences and intuition, and mostly have that feeling of that light bulb switching on at the back of one’s head, while learning from their experiences, recommendations and work.)

The reason I mention these names is because I have heard and learnt about Dr. Schoenfeld through all of these people. The one other person I’ve heard on radio shows associated with him is Ben Pakulski, someone else’s recommendations that, imho, have made very little to no sense to me, in 90% of his work on attempting to educate others into a bodybuilding lifestyle. This person probably has a PhD in pseudo-science & is a totally different topic worthy of having it’s own space for dissection.

How I came across Dr. Schoenfeld’s Max Muscle Plan.

I was searching for resources to understand the different forms of periodization and program design, especially w.r.t how they handle fatigue and recovery. Also how they can be applied in both strength training and bodybuilding oriented goals. I happened upon Dr. Schoenfeld’s program which was very highly rated on Amazon. I know that it is not a book on periodization, but any proper and successful training program has to have some sort of periodization built into it, which is what I wanted to understand.



  1. Explains what is hypertrophy and what causes it. Explains lightly what are satellite cells(I assume he has to in order to ‘sell’ the crux of the program viz. ‘Mitogens’. This will be referenced in detail later.) Explains the most important muscle building hormones and their importance and functioning.
  2. Explains training variables like Intensity, Volume, Tempo, Rest Intervals.
  3. Good explanation and recommended use of Unstable surfaces in training.

Continue reading


Strength & Conditioning at Harvard University

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2015 by newuxtreme

What I can look forward to, some exciting new stuff!

Athletes Edge

In January 2014 I set off on another adventure – this time it wasn’t for mind broadening exploration or meandering mountains in search of ancient lost cities; but to visit and understand the mechanics of one of the world’s leading Universities.  I had (like many people I’m sure) been very aware of Harvard University’s academic prowess, but I didn’t realise that it had the most Division 1 sports in the entire country – ranging from the common American Football, Basketball, Ice Hockey, to the lesser known Alpine Skiing, Sailing and Golf – all of which participated religiously (Sailing less religiously!!) in their Strength & Conditioning sessions.

photo 1 (1)

I was there to assist and (hopefully) lead S&C sessions during my time there and on entering the gym, I knew that leaving QPR Academy’s “gym” (actual squash court) was long behind me.  I arrived and the day was in full swing, despite getting…

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Strength & Conditioning at Harvard University

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2015 by newuxtreme


What do I have to look forward to! Exciting stuff!

AiFT : Chapter 5 The Hips

Posted in Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2015 by newuxtreme

Gray Cook often makes this point: Hip mobility is something we lose.

The big thing with understanding hips is we need more static flexibility work, more direct hip flexor work, and more attention to mobility.

That’s the key, getting core stability while we gain active hip mobility.

Hip Flexion

The five muscles capable of assisting in hip flexion are the tensor fascia latae (TFL), the rectus femoris (distinct in that it is both a member of the quadriceps group and a hip flexor), the iliacus, the sartorius and the psoas.

Three of these muscles possess something in common; two are distinctly different. The TFL, rectus femoris and sartorius all have insertion at the iliac crest. This means all of these muscles are capable of hip flexion up to the level of the hip, a function of the principles of mechanical leverage.

The Psoas and Iliacus

The psoas and the iliacus are the only hip flexors capable of bringing the hip above ninety degrees.

Inability to keep the knee above ninety degrees for ten or fifteen seconds indicates a weak psoas or a weak iliacus.

S&C Coach Karen Wood has come up with an even better test-cum-exercise that can be used.

Back Pain

The solution to low back pain isn’t found in the back, it’s in the hips.

Weak glutes, bad back.

TFL Cramping

Weakness in the Hip Muscles


Thomas position is popular for psoas stretching.

Check this section out in the book this exercise is extremely important and interesting especially for personal purposes.

Hip-Dominant Exercises

The muscles that extend the hip, primarily the gluteus maximus and hamstring group, are often neglected in training programs.

Many coaches mistakenly believe squatting is enough exercise for the entire lower body.

Many US powerlifters used this lift for years prior to the introduction of the term Romanian deadlift.

While this exercise addresses the need for hip-dominant exercise, it does not address the need for unilateral hip-dominant exercise.

Hamstring Group

Although some anatomy texts describe the hamstring group as knee flexors, we now know the hamstring is actually the second most powerful hip extensor, as well as a stabilizer of the knee.

Hamstrings are only knee flexors in nonfunctional settings. In any locomotor activity, the function of the hamstrings group is not to flex the knee, but to extend the hip.

Note a favorite Shirley Sahrmann quote:

“When assessing the factors that contribute to an overuse syndrome, one of the rules is to determine whether one or more of the synergists of the strained muscle is also weak. When the synergist is weak, the muscle strain is probably the result of excessive demands.”

This may explain the frequent complaint heard by athletic trainers and therapists, “I can’t believe he pulled his hamstring again; he has great strength.”

The reality is hamstring weakness was never the problem. The problem was a weak prime mover. We now know to look for a weakness causing a strain, and to strengthen the weak muscle instead of the strained muscle.

The key to any of the hip-extension movements is to instruct the client or athlete to think glutes first. Improvement of glute firing must be a conscious effort.

AiFT : Chapter 4 The Core

Posted in Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2015 by newuxtreme

Approaches in Core Training

Squats just aren’t enough. Elaborate and understand.

Core Stability

McGill advocates a technique he refers to as bracing in place of the hollowing or drawing in we’d been doing previously.

Gray Cook’s idea best: Just tellthe client to get tall and skinny.

Forget about squats and deadlifts being enough core work. Jeffrey McBride’s research invalidates that thought.


Drawing in

Ideally this is done by contracting the transverse abdominus and internal oblique muscles.



In bracing there is no attempt to decrease the diameter of the waist, only to activate the muscles.

Anterior Core Training

Look at McGill’s method for causing disk damage in a lab setting — repeat flexion.

Core training may just be more about theprevention of motion than about the creation of motion.

Our rollout progression goes from stability balls to ab wheels to TRX rollouts or fallouts, which don’t change the difficulty of the eccentric action, but add a whole new dimension to the concentric.

Read the book for examples of the phases & progressions.

Glute Activation and the Core

Substituting lumbar extension for hip extension is the major culprit in many of the problems we see.

Both McGill and Clark identify the same problem: Are the glutes weak because the psoas is tight, or is the psoas tight because the glutes are weak? It may be a classic interdependent, chicken-and-egg scenario. Either way, proper strengthening of the glutes will be the best cure.

In order to remedy poor glute function, the athlete needs to be able to set the core and fire the glutes. Initially this is best done in quadruped position to eliminate hamstring contribution.

Sahrmann presents another series of thoughts in her game-changing book; she believes anterior hip pain can be the result of poor glute function and the resultant synergistic dominance of the hamstrings.

When assessing the factors that contribute to an overuse syndrome, one of the rules is to determine whether one or more of the synergists of the strained muscle are also weak. When the synergist is weak, the muscle strain is probably the result of excessive demands.

Glute Activation Keys

Let me be clear: Perform glute activation prior toevery workout. Read in detail to find out how.

Global Muscles

Rotational Training

Specialists in rehab began to understand movement is multi-planar, and the highest form of rehab involved diagonal patterns of flexion and extension combined with rotation.

The chop and the lift as exercises were introduced to the athletic world by Gray Cook.

The initial chopping and lifting patterns involve movements primarily in the frontal plane that force the athlete to isometrically resist rotation with the muscles of the core.

Core Advances

The new concept of the core is simple: Core is anti-rotation. Core is the prevention of motion.

What’s really new is when we now talk about core strength, we really mean core stability. We’re going to train rectus abdominus, internal oblique, external oblique to prevent motion of the lumbar spine with our rollout progressions.

Awareness in Rotational Training

The lumbar range of motion we were trying to create is potentially injurious.

Rotation of the lumbar spine is more dangerous than beneficial, and rotation of the pelvis and lower extremities to one side while the trunk remains stable or is rotated to the other side is particularly dangerous.

With this in mind, I have eliminated the following types of stretches we were using to increase lumbar range of motion. This includes seated and lying trunk rotational stretches, such as windshield wipers.

We also eliminated dynamic exercises designed to increase trunk range of motion, such as the dynamic bent-leg trunk twists, the dynamic straight-leg trunk twist, and the scorpion.

The Core Exercises

Core Strengthening Exercises

Read em up.

Floor-Based Core Stability Exercises

Cook states the concept simply: In order to be doing a core stability exercise, there must be no movement of the core.

Exercises that cause the spine to move are considered core strength exercises.

Quadruped Progression

Quadruped exercises should teach athletes how to recruit the glutes while maintaining a stable torso.

Quadruped Draw-In

Learn the draw in position.

Supine Progression

The supine progression may be the most important part of the overall torso training program. The supine or bridging progression teaches athletes to fire both the glutes and hamstrings while maintaining the core position with the deep abdominal muscles.

Cook Hip Lift

This is an invaluable exercise that provides a triple emphasis on the glutes, hamstrings and on the torso. The Cook hip lift develops glute and hamstring strength and function, and also teaches the critical difference between hip and lumbar spine range of motion.

The ability to distinguish between hip motion and lumbar spine motion is one of the most important goals of the supine exercise progression.

The Superficial Core


AiFT Chapter 3 : Injuries

Posted in Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2015 by newuxtreme

Since MB’s training philosophy seems to go, priority 1) Avoiding injnuries & then 2) Improving S&C, it sort of follows that he would give a lot of importance to injuries and what to do about them and also refers to them earlier on in his book.


Memorize Shirley Sahrmann’s statement, “When a muscle is strained, the first thing to do is look for a weak or underactive synergistic.”

If you only understand one thing about injuries, understand this: Injuries do not occur because of the muscle that’s injured. That’s very, very rare. Pulled hamstrings, pulled quads… anytime you see a muscle that hurts, you have to consider why. And that is going to lead you to look at the synergistic muscles and ask why this injured muscle has to do too much work. What’s not doing its job to cause this other muscle to overwork?

The analogy being watching water running down the wall and repainting the wall rather than patching the roof.

Injury Reduction

An important concept is that of ‘Technical Failure’. The healthy trainee returns to train another day, while the hurt guy goes to physical therapy.

Progression in cardiovascular exercise should also be pain-free and should follow the ten-percent rule: Do not increase time or distance more than ten percent from one session to the next.

Tendinitis or Tendinosis

If it’s chronic, it’s probably tendinosis. Continued use of antiinflammatories actually weakens a tendon and delays healing.

In reconditioning an athlete with a a tendinosis condition, it may be necessary to endure some tendon pain to produce the proper remodeling effect. In fact, Dr. Strack points out it may not just be necessary, but according to some studies it’s a must.

If there’s no soreness in a tendon rehab program, research shows reps or external weight should increase. This is an isolated exception to the no-pain rule. The painful stress to the tendon acts much like soft tissue work to initiate a healing response.

Acceptable pain is localized to the target tissue, and the tissue is painful to touch. There should be no swelling and no motion restrictions. The pain should follow a DOMS-like pattern and be gone in two or three days.

This part is of particular importance to myself since I suffer tendinosis in both wrists.

Injury Prevention Suggestions

Switch to Front Squats

Forget the Leg Press

Avoid Knee Wraps

Try Belt Squats

Use Single-Leg Squats

Dump Conventional Deadlifts

Clean from the Hang Position

Teach Dumbbell or Close-Grip Snatches

Obviously he goes into greater detail and explanation for his opinions.

Upper-Body Injuries

The pull-to-push ratio should be a minimum of one to one. Treat your vertical pulls programming just like the bench.

All athletes should eventually be able to perform ten to fifteen inverted rows with the bar at bench press height and the feet elevated eighteen inches. What these athletes lack is true scapulae retraction strength, regainable by horizontal pulling.

Rotator Cuff Support

90/90s & YTWL cables.

Anterior Knee Pain

The zeal of athletic trainers to stabilize the ankle with shoes, tape and braces has led to athletes playing with ankle joints that function as if fused. Instead, an aggressive strengthening program aimed from the hip down, particularly the eccentric control of knee flexion, adduction and internal rotation may be more effective.

Glute Medius and Adductors in Knee Pain

Single-Leg Training and Knee Pain

Go through the book for understanding.

ACL Injury Prevention

Strategy One Active Warm-Up

Strategy Two Develop Stability and Eccentric Strength

Progressing Plyometrics

Strategy Three Strength Development

Strategy Four Change of Direction Concepts

Strategy Five Change of Direction Conditioning

Sports Hernia Rehab

No way to summarize this, needs to be read thoroughly & repeatedly.

This ends the injury and prevention aspect of MB’s functional training literature, after which we can finally look forward to what actually is very interesting and what matters to me the most. Training & specialization/learning from his experience.

AiFT Chapter 2 Review/Summary :- Mobility & Flexibility

Posted in Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2015 by newuxtreme

Interesting enough topics, exercises and recommendations to have me locked for 6 hours straight. Incredibly useful information ONLY if you start applying it whether on your own self or for your clients and athletes.

The Joint-by-Joint Approach

Functional Movement Screening (FMS) approach for evaluation.

Ankle – Mobility

Knee – Stability

Hip – Mobility

Lumbar Spine – Stability

Thoracic -Mobility

Scapula – Stability

Gleno-humeral joint -Mobility

Problems at one joint usually show up as pain in the joint above or below. When the intended mobile joint becomes immobile, the stable joint is forced to move as compensation, becoming less stable and subsequently painful.

Our lack of understanding of thoracic mobility caused us to try to gain lumbar rotary ROM, and this was a huge mistake.

Elite athletes always find a way to perform a skill and make it look easy. The red flags don’t disappear, they just go into hiding.

Attack the worst pattern. The process is simple. Run the screen, look at the results, work on the problem patterns.

Cook states, “If you did nothing the FMS suggested, but let the get-up catch the problem and worked on the difficult parts of the get-up, you would witness a huge improvement in the FMS.”

It’s easy to sell core training to an athlete after he bombs the rotary core stability test.

If an athlete is unable to perform the overhead squat, or any squat for that matter, but in a supine position can flex the hips above ninety degrees and keep a flat back, the athlete has a stability issue. The presence of mobility in an unloaded motion coupled with a loss of mobility against gravity clearly indicates a stability problem. Read this thrice and understand what it means. If you can get individual mobility across the individual joints in individual movements, but you can’t get the movement right in a compound movement the problem lies in your stability not in your mobility.

Mobility before stability before movement.

If you want an athlete or client to develop control or stability at a particular joint, such as the lumbar spine, it will be easier if we eliminate the knee and ankle joints and begin in a kneeling stance. In our exercise progressions, we tend to favor tall-kneeling for our athletes as a starting point. In contrast, standing creates the greatest number of issues, as there is the maximum number of joints to control.

Half Kneeling Stable Lift -> Half Kneeling Sequential -> Standing Lift -> Step Up Lift

Do not add strength to dysfunction.

The In-Line Lunge

Very interesting case studies and FMS team examples in the book, worth a re-read from time to time.

The book Blunder, Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions by Zachary Shore demonstrates how we neglect to expose ourselves to objective feedback either consciously or unconsciously. This book is a must if you are responsible for programming, teaching and analyzing data. Protect your brain from your ego!

If a speed coach is not scared of a stopwatch, a good strength coach should not be scared of the FMS.

Gray was kind enough to provide some closing recommendations.

• Don’t push movement when mobility and stability are compromised.

• Don’t continue programming that does not yield clean movement patterns.

• Don’t risk injury when you can screen for it in less than ten minutes.

• Don’t be scared of objective appraisal of your work.

• Don’t let others find your mistakes; always check your work.

• Don’t lump movement tests together with performance tests. You will miss the weakest link.

Assessing Strength, Flexibility and Mobility

Soft Tissue Therapy

It’s all pressure applied to tissue to deform it and cause a chemical reaction. This is why soft tissue work is often painful and can ache the following day, similar to DOMS.

Soft tissue mobilization stimulates the formation of fibroblasts, which help take immature and randomly aligned Type 3 collagen seen in tendinosis, and changes it back to a stronger, more parallel mature Type 1 collagen.

Foam Rolling

How can we mass-produce soft tissue work for large groups of athletes at a reasonable cost?

When you picture a muscle as a band with a knot in it, the foam roller is what unties the knots. This is what allows us to create tissue length, and what allows us to stretch.

When to roll? First thing in the workout. Untie the knots, then static stretch, then dynamic warm up drills.

Good stretching is uncomfortable, but not painful. Know the difference. A little discomfort means your athlete is well positioned.

• Activate the antagonist

• Do long statics

• Use active stretches

If you take one thing from this book, it’s this: Start rolling. Start stretching. If all of your athletes are not rolling and stretching, you’re five steps behind.

Bottom line, stretching is highly underrated. To keep athletes healthy long-term, add good old-fashioned stretching to the workout.

Using active-isolated stretching has two significant benefits.

• The rest period is used for something other than conversation. This allows us to increase the total training effect of the sessions, as flexibility has now been addressed during the strength or power session. It also keeps the focus on training with fewer distractions that come with down time.

• Stretching the muscles in use correlates to a decrease in soreness from the workout.

Advances in Functional Training Chapter 1 Review/Summary

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2015 by newuxtreme

I’m reading world renowned Strength coach Mike Boyle’s ‘Advances in Functional Training’ book and instead of keeping just word document notes for the same I think I’d make public review/summary notes so that others could benefit from them as well. Not to mention I don’t understand every single thing I read or that is recommended and someone with experiences other than mine could probably chime in and help explain some of the places & topics I might get confused about.

Reconsidering Functional Training

Injuries commonly seen:-

• Clients with low back pain were usually weak in the deep abdominals.

• Athletes with knee problems usually had weak hip stabilizers.

• Those with rotator cuff issues universally had issues with scapula retractors and stabilizers.

Functional Training in terms of S&C should be used to 1) reduce injuries & 2) enhance  performance.

As a coach, you can’t allow yourself to fall in love with any particular exercises, techniques or philosophies. Your job is to get results, and to choose the methods that give you those results. That means experimenting with everything that makes sense to you, rejecting the things that don’t make sense or no longer make sense, and keeping whatever works.

If it works, that’s all that matters.

Technical failure means you never count a rep after technique breaks down.

Choosing Functional Exercises

Obviously Free Weight Back Squat>Smith Squat>Lying Leg Press.

However the next step would be to work on one leg. After all how many legs do you run on at a time. The muscles that support the lower leg in single-leg stance — the quadratus, glute medius and adductors — are not nearly as active in double-leg exercises.

The final step in the continuum is a one-leg squat while standing on an unstable surface. Now the athlete must engage the prime movers, stabilizers and neutralizers while dealing with the additional proprioceptive input provided by instability.

You don’t have to take exercises like squats or deadlifts out of your program, but instead complement them with assistance exercises higher on the functional continuum.

Check the book for examples.

Upper-Body Pulling and Pressing

There should be at least one set of a pulling exercise for every set of pushing.

A poor ratio of pulling to pressing leads to overdevelopment of the pectorals and underdevelopment of the scapulae retractors, and predisposes athletes to overuse shoulder injuries, especially rotator cuff tendinosis.

Vertical Pulling

If you are performing sets of three in the bench press, perform sets of three in your vertical pulling movements. Treat them as a strength/power exercise just like you do the pressing one’s.

Horizontal Pulling

Rowing exercises are a true antagonistic movement to the bench press. Although chin-ups and their variations are important, rowing movements specifically target both the muscles and movement patterns that directly oppose those trained on the bench press.

Force is transmitted from the ground through the leg to the hip via the biceps femoris and the glute max. The force is then transferred across the sacro-iliac joint into the opposite latissimus dorsi.

The key in this system of cross-linkage lies not only in stabilizing the hip, but in engaging the muscles used in the proper motor pattern.

The hip rotators are the “rotator cuff” of the lower body, they must be given due focus and attention.

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