Brad: If you’re talking about the “average” exerciser, then the most important advice I could give is simply to focus on energy balance. Basic application of the first law of thermodynamics: take in fewer calories than you expend and you’ll lose weight. It gets a lot more complicated for those who are already lean and looking to optimize body comp.
SNI: What is the single biggest misconception when it comes to exercise training if your goal is to lose body fat?
Brad: Without a doubt, the single biggest misconception about losing body fat is that this is best accomplished by performing cardio. In fact, resistance training is generally even more important. I’ve had excellent success using metabolic resistance training protocols that maximize training density as a primary component of a fat loss routine. Studies show these types of routines have substantial effects on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), and that the effects can last for several days! Moreover, as opposed to cardio, resistance training helps to preserve or even increase muscle mass while dieting, thus preserving/elevating metabolic rate. Based on my experience, combining high-intensity interval training with metabolic resistance training is best to optimize fat loss.
SNI: Regarding folks who just want to get big (i.e. just want skeletal muscle hypertrophy), can you summarize the nuts and bolts of the ‘best’ way (if it exists) to train to achieve this goal. High volume, lower loads, or is it high load, low volume, or is it both? Or is it a bit of everything?
Brad: Volume is a big key to maximizing hypertrophy. Research is very clear on this—up to a given point, greater volume loads equate to greater muscle growth. As a general rule, moderate reps for multiple sets have proven best based on my experience, but it’s certainly beneficial to include a range of loading schemes. I’m a big fan of periodizing routines and have developed a program that varies volume over time to bring about maximum results. It’s really important to include “unloading” intervals into the mix to facilitate recuperation and prevent overtraining. I have a new book coming out called the “MAX Muscle Plan” that details this program. Look for it this fall!
SNI: Describe the importance of ‘marrying’ the scientific evidence of training/nutrition with ‘real world’ experience.
Brad: This is such an important point! Any evidence-based approach (which we all should take with respect to fitness) should look at the body of research and then apply the evidence to our practical experience and the needs of the individual. One of the biggest problems I see is that researchers and practitioners get entrenched in opposite camps: the researchers will only go by what has been shown in the literature and the practitioners disregard the research and take a purely intuitive approach. Invariably, evidence-based practice essentially “marries” these factors to produce a better outcome.
SNI: You are pursuing a PhD. What was your ‘aha’ moment in deciding this and what experimental question will you attempt to answer?
Brad: My ‘aha’ moment was that I ultimately realized I wanted to teach full-time at the university level and this requires a PhD. The focus of my doctoral work is to help determine the optimal combination of variables for maximal muscle development in trained subjects. It’s hard to believe, but the research is virtually non-existent in this area. Hopefully my research will address our gaps in knowledge and further out ability to pack on more muscle!
SNI: And last but not least, if you could be a superhero, who would it be and why?
Brad: Definitely the Hulk. Except for the green skin, who wouldn’t want to look like Lou Ferrigno?
BIO – Brad Schoenfeld MSc CSCS is an internationally renowned fitness expert and widely regarded as one of the leading authorities on body composition training (muscle development and fat loss). He is a lifetime drug-free bodybuilder, and has won numerous natural bodybuilding titles including the ANPPC Tri-State Naturals and USA Mixed Pairs crowns. Go here for more info: http://www.lookgreatnaked.com/meet_trainer/meet_trainer.html