Ask Joe The Pro Vol. 9 - The Scoop On MAX-OT Training

How can you make a HIT advocate gag? Is the MAX-OT routine a sensible training approach? Can you gain strength after a severe injury?

Is MAX OT Da Bomb?

Jeff Willet MAX OTWhat do you think of the Max OT training program that Skip LaCour and Jeff Willet have had so much success on? – Greg Rando

Hey Greg, I think MAX-OT works well ...BUT not forever. Sorry Skip! I believe ALWAYS training in the 4-6 range limits your potential tremendously by missing out on other muscle fibers that you need to hit in the 8-12 range and even 13-20. The human body LOVES to adapt and I don’t care if you add 2 pounds a week to each exercise, there will be a point of no return where your adding weight and using horrible form and not even stressing the muscles any longer and putting tremendous strain on your joints.

Max OT is an injury waiting to happen. Skip And Jeff both have great genetics and are both Type II fast twitch dominant. But who’s to say if they didn’t incorporate higher rep ranges, beyond failure techniques and even cycled training methods that they wouldn’t get even better then they were?!?!? Now I’m not saying MAX OT won’t work cause it will. But after 6-8 weeks it will stop working and the risks will outweigh the benefits tremendously. Max OT also believes in skipping most isolation exercises, but even if you do them they recommend 4-6 reps. I’ve seen skip “throw” 60 pound dumbbells up doing what I guess was side laterals and they only thing your overloading is your traps and back. Use MAX OT for an extended period of time and maybe for 2 exercises and always do one isolation exercise in the 8-12 range. That’s my take at least.

Ask Joe the Pro

Joe, you seem to have a good stage presence when you’re competing. Can you tell me how do I go up there looking like I’ve done this before? – M Smith, Ronkonkama, NY

Thanks for the compliment man! I think first and foremost you should know how to perform all the mandatory poses along with perfecting standing in the “relaxed’ position. I recommend going to a bodybuilding event, preferably a pro show so you can at least get a better perspective on how to do these poses correctly. If you can’t make it to one, I would go to Youtube and Google some of the top IFPA and WNBF pro shows, along with the IFBB. There are also instructional posing videos out there. The most popular “perfect posing” made famous by Russ Testio. He actually shows you the correct and incorrect way of hitting each pose.

IFBB pro Jeff Willet also has an instructional posing DVD you may find useful. Once you can do each and every pose without effort and stand in the “relaxed” position for a good 4 or 5 minutes you will be ahead of the pack in terms of presentation. Next, you should focus on projecting confidence. Smile and tell the judges with your grin and eyes “it’s all about me”! Skip LaCour used to always say “don’t bother smiling be serious”. I don’t agree with that at all. The judges will be more receptive towards you if you have a big ear to ear grin on letting them know you’re having the time of your life and love doing this. There are little “tricks” you can do onstage to draw attention to yourself in a positive way

and to project a winner’s attitude, through more and more stage time you will understand and develop this skills accordingly. Good luck!

With your comeback around the corner, what are your future plans? – Tom Welling

I know Tom! As I write this I am 8 days away from the big comeback! I plan on winning the men’s open middleweight, best poser and overall trophy. Then Saturday night I plan on eating a few goodies I've been depriving myself of AND THEN SUNDAY IT'S ON, lol. I have each meal planned. My wife is going to make me gluten-free chocolate chip pancakes with turkey sausage and eggs. For lunch I’m going for a big cheeseburger and fries, and for dinner we are going to our favorite neighborhood “healthy pizza place”. You can get gluten-free dough, vegan cheese, etc. I’ll probably get whole wheat thin crust, extra cheese with half chicken and some veggies... YUM, lol. After that, if I have anything left, I’ll get some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with candy on it.

Squat Volume

THEN on Monday guess what? The diet starts over, lol. I have to get back into tip top shape for my second and last show of the season on July 17th the NPA Nationals, where I will fight for my pro card! My good friend Dimitrios will be flying up from NY to coach me and be in my corner! After the second contest I plan on staying 10-15 pounds above contest weight for the remainder of the Summer, then in the Fall I will stay 15-20 pounds above contest weight for the off-season. I have lots of exciting ideas for my next off-season and plan on making great improvements.

I made a big mistake in bulking up so heavy in the last off-season kidding myself it was “all muscle”, lol. I will never allow myself to go more then 20 pounds above contest weight again! Then next year I plan on doing one of the Musclemania contest. Hopefully the huge two day universe in Miami. After that (if I am a pro) I will do the NPA’s pro show in October. I plan on competing every year from now till I’m 40. Which is the next 5 years. If I am successful I will keep going and start doing masters over 40 as well.

I know you tore both your quads and regained size back, but I read on your comeback blog your legs are better then before your accident? How is that possible? - Joe Ditta

Hey, thanks for reading my blog Joe! And cool name btw, lol. YES, my quads and hams both look better now then they did before I got hurt. I have several reasons why this is so. The first and most obvious is during PT I was learning how to fire my quads effectively and isolate the vastus medialus with different exercises. They also used electronic stim on me which fired the muscles involuntarily, kind of “waking them up”. Now when I started back in the gym my form was PERFECT. I squatted really slow and pushed through my heels and kept constant tension on my quads. Now besides dropping the super heavy weights and really killing my quads with great form, the following are the reasons why my legs are better now then before the accident.

  1. No more knee wraps. I used to squat up to 455 pounds for 3 back breaking reps. I say backbreaking because of my long torso. In order for me to get ass to ankles deep on squats I had to hitch forward quite a bit. I also used to wrap my knees when I squatted anything heavier then 225. I believe knee wraps hinder the development of the tendons that protect your knees and slow down the muscle development of the lower quads that are above the knees.
  2. Lighter weight and narrow stance. I used to squat big with a big wide stance. This is great for upper quads, glutes and strength, but not much for direct hypertrophy for the frontal, lower quads. My solution? I started doing more then half of my sets with a less then shoulder width stance and lightened the load so I could do so.
  3. Ask Joe the Pro

    More volume and more reps. I know the HIT advocates will gag at reading this, lol, but I increased my sets on quads A LOT. I’ve been doing in the neighborhood of 16-20 sets for quads and 13-16 sets for hams. This of course counts warm up sets as well, but the overall volume is much higher which resulted in great pumps in my legs and I truly believe my quads respond to reps in the 10-20 range. Try doing 5 sets x 20 reps on barbell squats adding weight to each set and ending with 275 pounds. Tell me that’s easier then doing 5 or 6 sets of 3-5 reps. Now don’t get me wrong. I still believe in inserting lower rep, lower volume workouts for power and strength, but even then I don’t go lower then 8 reps on quads. I want to make sure I’m feeling my quads failing at rep number 8 not my balance, glutes and lower back.

  4. I separate quads and hams. I will NEVER and I repeat EVER do quads and hams in the same workout ever again. Hell, I probably won't do anything with hams besides calves again. I am able to fully focus and blast both quads and hams on their own day with plenty of volume and intensity, that hams are no longer an after thought. My hamstrings have improved so much in the last 6 months! I always had flat underdeveloped hams. Now in side chest and tricep shots they actually hang! When I do a rear hamstring curl to show the hamstring, I have a thick split up knotted muscle jumping out that didn’t look like that before! I also make sure I do exercises on ham and quad day that overlaps and hits that other muscle. For example on hamstring day I do walking dumbbell lunges and reverse hack squats which hit the quads pretty well! I do barbell lunges and other exercises on quad day that overlap and hit the hams
  5. I kept my mind open and tried new exercises. I love to squat, whether it's hack squats, smith squats, or lunges (which is a one legged squat). I just feel squats so much more then any pressing movement for quads. But I kept my mind open and tried different exercises like sissy squats, sissy squats in a hack squat machine, machine leg presses with feet close together and low on the platform, adductor machine and etc. I think I kept my mind completely open when doing hams because all I ever did in 18 years were stiff legged or Romanian deads and some type of leg curl. I tried ham glute raise, reverse hack squats, walking dumbbell lunges forward and backwards with a wider step for more hamstring, good mornings (which I feel way more then Romanian deads), feet high on platform leg press and all different types of bi and unilateral leg curls. I believe trying all these new angles and rep ranges has made a big difference in my quad and especially hamstring development.
  6. I hit calves twice a week now. I never have and never will have big calves. I have the smallest skinniest pathetic ankles you will ever see, lol. If you see me in shorts you see these skinny ankles and think I have bird legs lol but my calves are shredded year round! Right now at 2% bodyfat they have cuts running down to my feet! But regardless of my genetic potential I blast them twice a week with different rep ranges, intensity and exercises. If I can make them appear a tiny bit more round, a lil more dense then mission accomplished!

If you want bigger, more developed legs try splitting quads and hams up, throw some higher volume at them at least every other week and try high rep squats! Trust me they are not for the weak!