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Q & A with Coach Eric Broser

By Eric Broser

Q. I am extremely ectomorphic. My goal is to gain as much bulk as possible, but I don’t want to get too fat. I weigh about 155 and wish to get to about 185 in the next year. Should I be doing cardio along with my weight training?

A. I was in a very similar situation as you when I first started, although I was even skinnier if you could believe that! I weighed a paltry 125 lbs when I first wrapped my hands around a barbell! So, in other words, I feel your pain, and can fully appreciate your question. As for my response…I would have to say no, you should not do any cardio at this time. As an ectomorph struggling to add muscle and bodyweight the last thing you want to do is burn more calories and further increase your already racing metabolism through cardio. You want every calorie you ingest to be invested toward muscle repair and growth, even if you store a little added body fat along the way. The best way to avoid adding too much extra adipose tissue while gaining size is to make sure that you are eating a relatively clean high calorie diet. Try to get the majority of your calories from foods like steak, eggs, milk, chicken, fatty fish, protein powders, rice, pasta, potatoes, whole grain breads, fruits and vegetables. While the occasional pizza, ice cream and pancakes will not hurt you, make foods like this the exception and not the rule. Another point about cardio and the ectomorph that I want to make is that in my experience, those with this body type tend to have more limited recovery ability than most - not as much in regards to individual muscles as to systemic recovery. This means that as an ectomorph, overtraining is more of a concern than with other body types. Thus, the addition of cardio on top of weight training is not a good idea for us naturally skinny types (at least in the early bulking stages), as too much exercise will make too far an inroad into our recovery ability, eventually bringing gains in new muscle to a screeching halt!

So, my advice to you is to train hard and heavy no more than 4 days per week, eat at least 6 clean, high calorie meals per day, and to sleep 7-9 hours every night. That is your simple, yet most reliable equation for muscle growth.

Q. When it comes to deadlifts and back development I am confused as to which form is better…partials deads in the rack, or full deads off the floor?

A. Ask 50 different bodybuilders this question and you will likely get two different answers (I bet you thought I’d say 50 different answers, right?). Fifty percent will claim that full deads are the only way to go and the other fifty will swear by pulling in the rack. Very often, the bodybuilders that proclaim full deads to be king were either former powerlifters, train with a powerlifter, or lift in a gym comprised mostly of powerlifters! Two of the biggest backs ever in the pro ranks belong to Ronnie Coleman and Jonnie Jackson. Each of them deadlift at almost every workout, and it is always off the floor. However, both of these champions started out as powerlifters before becoming bodybuilders - and in fact, Jonnie will occasionally still compete in lifting meets when the mood strikes him. My point is that although many believe that anything short of full range of motion on deads is a waste of time, it is probably because they were taught to pull from the floor since the beginning and not because they are experts in kinesiology.

So, to answer your question, my opinion (based both on experience and education) is that when speaking specifically about what is most efficient for building the back musculature I would opt for the partial deadlift. The reason I say this is because in order to perform a proper deadlift from the floor you must drive the first half of the movement by primarily utilizing thigh, glute and hip power rather than the muscles of the back. When pulling in a rack you can eliminate a great deal of lower body recruitment and rely more so on the strength and combined contraction of the erectors, lats, and traps to lift the weight. So in a sense, partial deads actually can be said to “isolate” the back musculature better than full deads, which spread the mechanics of the lift over just about the entire body.

Your next question might be what is the optimal range of motion for the partial deadlift? Well, there is no “optimal” range of motion, but I have found three particular ranges to be quite effective when used in the following manner:

Week 1

-Set pins to start the lift from just above the knees. Perform 3 sets to failure at around 8, 6 and 4 reps.

Week 2

-Set pins to start the lift from just below the knees. Attempt the same weight as the week before for sets of 8, 6 and 4 to failure.

Week 3

-Set pins to start the lift from mid-shin height. Again, attempt to use the same weight as the previous weeks for sets of 8, 6 and 4 to failure.

Take the 4th week off of deadlifts then start the cycle again but this time using a weight between 5-10 lbs heavier than in the previous cycle.

This is an excellent method for gradually increasing your deadlift poundage, which will also lead to a bigger, thicker more heavily muscled back. Just remember, no bouncing the weight off the pins to gain momentum! You will only be cheating yourself! Lift explosively to the standing position, and then slowly lower the bar back to the pins. Let the weight settle before each repetition.

Now, it’s GROW time!


partial deadlift