A blog by the Next Level  2013 Advancement Team.  

This blog provides the insight, in-jokes and inspiration of a team in action.  Each post is by a team member as their journey continues.  

In The Next Level, an "Advancement Team" is a team built of experienced athletes designed to "advance" the program.  The spring 2013 Advancement Team is comprised of eight men: Tom Keon, Phil Cohen, Stephen Cyr, Seth Carbonneau, Stephen Forgione. Phil Biondo, Yarza Winn and Chris Noonan.  

Each post represents only the views of it's poster, and is not intended as a reflection of the opinions, views or beliefs of any other teammate, the team as a whole or The Next Level.  

Follow these men as they make their marks on a small corner of history.



The goal is to stay strong, build muscle and lose fat.  So, if the stuff you use to burn fat also assists in maintaining strength, well, you got a win-win.

Recently, the guys have begun doubling up athletic dynamic training with interval "fat-burning."  It looks like what most people think of as "CrossFit," but this is a shade different.  The goal is not to have the best time on a board, but rather to accomplish a medium range goal.

With the hundreds of dynamic moves these guys use – from power cleans to a good ol' fashioned jumprope – they create complexes, compression sets and "dispersals" as a team to push each other's fat burning while keeping their athletic and strength skills high.  This sort of exercise instead of traditional "cardio" (yawn! and yuck!) allows them to burn more fat, as well as get their metabolism higher so that they do not need to starve to get lean.  Meanwhile, they present healthier bodies in bodybuilding and maintain their endurance for strength contests longer into the "diet."

2013: A year of variety?

posted by Seth Carbonneau

For the last three years my main objective in the gym was to increase my overall strength to be a more competitive strongman. I didn't have the luxury of training at a strongman gym on a daily basis, so I had to adapt my template to a "normal" gym. I figured that increasing my strength using a barbell would directly translate to strongman, so I used Jim Wendler's 5-3-1. I started with a strict 4-day-a-week template that looked like this:

Day 1: Bench Press 5-3-1 Incline DB bench 4x10 One-armed DB rows 4x10 Weighted dips 4x10 Conditioning

Day 2: Deadlift 5-3-1 Good mornings 4x10 Unilateral romanian DB deads 4x10 hanging leg raises 3x AMAP Conditioning

Day 3: Military Press 5-3-1 Pull-ups as many sets as needed to get to 50 reps DB clean and press 4x10 Face-pulls 4x10 Conditioning

Day 4: Back squat 5-3-1 Front squat 4x10 reverse lunges 4x10 Leg press 4x10 Conditioning

It took a couple cycles for me to adapt to this routine, then I started adding one strongman training day in at the end of the week for a Day 5. At first I would just train whatever strongman events I felt like training that week and I would always go for maxes and new PRs. It only took one cycle of this to realize that I was not increasing strength in any of my lifts and I felt warn-out all the time; I was overtraining.

With the help of my training partner we decided to modify the routine to make it a 3-day-a-week 5-3-1 template with a fourth day being a strong-man event day. We kept the same four days, but just shifted one of the days to the following week so that one week was Day1, Day2, Day3, strongman then the next week was Day4, Day1, Day2, strongman. This made one week have two upper-body days and one lower, and the other week have two lower-body days and one upper. On the two upper/one lower week I would focus on lower body strongman events, and on the two lower/one upper week I would focus on upper body strongman. The one caveat to this routine is that strongman events are intrinsically full-body so it's hard to separate upper and lower body movements. I attempted to separate them into the two categories as best I could:

Upper body:

Log Press Axil Press Circus or giant DB Press Viking Press DB holds Farmers Walks Tire flips

Lower Body:

Yoke Stones Axil deadlift Tire Deadlift Car Deadlift Sled drags/pulls Conan's Wheel

I chose the events I wanted to focus on based on which events were in up-coming contests, otherwise I just had fun and did the events I felt like doing. The first few weeks of this routine were a little rough and I almost felt like I was overtraining, but I had a deal with myself that I would give it at least two cycles before I changed it. After a few weeks I think my central nervous system started to adapt to some extent, then after I came back from my first de-load week and started cycle two, I felt much better and I could tell the routine was doing just what I had intended it would do--increase strength. Overall, I gained a serious amount of strength doing this routine and most weeks I never felt like a overtrained (the exceptions seemed to be weeks when I deadlifted twice, or did a heavy yoke). Here's a few examples of my PR changes:

Squat: 275 to 365 Deadlift: 340 to 460 Log press: 190 to 230 Farmers walks: 200 for 100ft to 250 for 100ft

I did this routine for about 5 months before I started seeing diminishing returns. Rather than just decrease my 1RM and start the program over again, I decided that it was a rough routine to continue for a long period of time and strongman season was over so I would try something new for a little while. This routine was obviously great for helping me reach my goal of increasing strength, but it lacked variety because it was strict and didn't allow development of other important aspects of strongman. I am currently trying to incorporate plyometrics, isometrics, speed-lifting, and conditioning into my training while still keeping a strict routine. I am finding this task difficult and wonder if having a strict routine is necessary. Since I have always had a strict routine and don't know any better, perhaps I would benefit from a more fluid routine, or no routine at all. They say variety is the spice of life right?


posted by Stephen Cyr

What Gets Me Going?

Inspiration. It's that little voice inside our heads that constructs the vision or the ideal we are striving for. It's like a stomach, and when properly fed and fueled it can help us push beyond what we believed ourselves to be capable of.

People always throw out diet and gym work as being the two major components of bodybuilding. With silly quotes like “it 90% diet bro,” or “bodybuilding breaks down 75% diet 25% effort.” (I'm sure everyone that subscribes to these numerical divisions has strong scientific support to back it up.)

But it's not the work nor the diet that gets you in the gym. There is no chicken or the egg debate in bodybuilding. Before the journey can begin there must first be inspiration.

Inspiration is not stagnant or singular; it evolves as we do: a subconscious coach that speaks to our inner most desires. Whether the inspiration drives your love for fitness, bodybuilding, strongman – or doing taxes.  Inspiration is an intangible well of resources that is rarely tapped in order to ascend whichever of life’s ladders you choose to climb.

So my point in all this is that while inspiration is unique to each of us, there might be a chance that by sharing what inspires us, may inspire the others on this team. So I am gonna go through what my favorite lead up to a workout is, and what gets me in the mood to train hard.

First off, I don’t like to eat within an hour of going to the gym. Getting a solid meal in before that hour period is usually the best. Something with both carbs and protein and low in fat. Once that hour hits my internal starts automatically telling me to start getting in the mood.

That mood starts with the clothes, putting on however many layers of gym rat clothes I own. Then the next thing is (if I have the time) to throw on some YouTube videos of bodybuilding, or famous speeches, or any sort of motivational thing. I let that play while I pack up my bag with my post workout protein, and whatever things I need for the gym.

As I watch the video and pack my stuff, I can feel my body waking up. I start to imagine the feeling of the gym; the enjoyment I am going to receive from the workout and the steps I will be taking on the timeline that I have laid before myself. As these external areas of interest move into focus, thoughts about the next contest, my current training plan, my current diet (or lack there of) all come into view.  

Yet along with all that I never lose track of recalling the base enjoyment I've always received from lifting. It is so strong sometimes I have to remind myself that I need a plan going in and that I can’t simply run in and throw some weight around without any sort of direction.

I train to maintain a balance between my frenzy and my plan. This doesn’t always work out perfectly; sometimes I don’t have time to do half or any of these things.

So what are some of the things that get you pumped for the gym? Is it the clothes you wear, the music you listen to (my favorite is Black Sabbath), the videos you watch or something you think about?

Lets share what inspires us and see if we can inspire one another.

Ego Maniac!

posted by Phil Biondo

This is my first blog post ever, so while it will most likely not go down in history, but I am meanwhile not afraid to go down.  Which brings me to this weeks topic: Girls in the gym.

More specifically: when I enter the gym, should I check my ego at the door and only lift appropriate max weights?  Or should I let my ego run wild, as usual, and use the possibility of hooking up with the bikini model in the elliptical to push myself past my normal max weights?

Most days I would tell you to check your ego at the door. In fact I often make fun of guys trying to impress some mildly fit female, as if that extra 10 lbs. is the deciding factor in wether or not she lets you in her pants. Most days i'm so focused in the gym I wouldn't even notice Kim Kardashian doing squats right next to me. Having said this I myself earlier this week was a victim of my own ego.

During my weekly sets of dead lifts to start off back day, otherwise known as OMG my lats are huge day! I started off light with a couple warmup sets(135x10, 225x10). Then two sets to failure(315x10, 405x8). Then finally finished with a one rep max where I tied my PR of 500 lbs. That's right 500 lbs., I was impressed too.

Unfortunately this testosterone high only lasted a couple seconds until a very attractive female walked up to me flirtatiously, wearing a midriff tank designed to prominently display her lower back tat (tramp-stamp/), along with the tightest booty shorts in the world.

But then things shifted.  This smoke show proceeded to call me a, "P#$$y" for ONLY lifting 500 lbs. when she had clearly seen me already lift that same weight the previous week. 

It was at this point I probably should have listened to my extremely sore back, and told her to go back to her Zumba class. Instead I decided to impress her by throwing on another 10 lbs. on the bar.

Half way through that lift, I could feel something start to tear...

To make a long story short I now have a new dead lift PR of 510 lbs. but have not been able to lift or stand up strait for the last five days.

I'll leave it up to you to decide: is an ego a positive tool for bodybuilders?  Or just a reason to have a chiropractor on speed dial?