This article is from an interview I did with GeneticWar.com.
Adam Bisek is a Myotropics Physique Nutrition Sponsored Athlete / Writer and Bodybuilding.com’s personal trainer of the month for August, 2012. Check out his road to success in the fitness industry and how he maintains his top level physique.
How did you get started in bodybuilding and fitness?
The journey that landed me where I am today has been interesting to say the least. If I were to pinpoint a moment in time that my interest in the industry was spurred it would have been when I began training for college track. Being an accomplished high hurdler in high school, I searched for new training, dietary, and supplemental techniques to take me to the next level.
The success I had with my own research was matched with a new gained passion for educating myself in the practice of new innovative methods in health and fitness, so much so that I immersed myself in my college education, and subsequently left the original sport that spurred my interest to devote more time to my studies and work. This passion culminated in becoming a certified professional, practicing as only a sophomore in college and being involved with 3 research studies over the course of my collegiate career, one being my own which was published in the fall of 2010.
There is however a darker side to my story. My passion for the field also manifested itself into an obsession with body image. A long timecourse of overtraining and very restrictive dieting had me sporting an adonis-like physique on the outside, but began to brew a storm of physiological and psychological health consequences. Months of abuse on body culminated in a dilapidated shell of myself, 165 pounds at 6’2″, sadly resembeling a concentration camp victim, which was a far cry from my 205 pound 5% bodyfat physique at the peak of my physical condition. For someone falling on the far right of the muscle dysmorphia continuum, the developing psychological distress that followed led to deep depression.
When it was found that I had acquired a clinical health issue known as secondary hypogonadism from my experiences it was actually liberating because I had a resolution. The therapy that I began resolved my physical issues, but the psychological ramifications took far longer to resolve, so much so that I deal with moments of weakness even today. This life-changing experience did leave me with some very strong qualities. As a person I have the mental tools to overcome many of life’s challenges, and a greater perspecitve on what it means to live. Professionally, I carry a uniquely evident spirit of empathy and compassion for helping others succeed in their health and fitness goals. All the while my passion for educating myself in the many nuances of diet and exercise has not waivered, but only grown.
Today I continue to explore the science and practice of our field on both my clients and myself. Last year I put my passion and expertise to the test, prepping myself for my first Men’s Physique competition and stepping on stage. A 4th place finish in a very strong line up had me hooked. I competed several times since, most recently taking 2nd place at the Wisconsin State Championships. I have since taken on a new goal of transitioning to the bodybuilding stage, a move that will challenge my knowledge and willpower.
What are your short and long term fitness goals?
In the short term my goals are to learn how to balance my life. To gain perspecitve on how to grow my relationship with my future wife Amie, while becoming a better professional, and continue to expand my knowledge in best nutritional and training practices to become a strong bodybuilding competitor.
As far as long term fitness goals I want to win an regional overall bodybuilding competition. If national level competition is a reality then I will gladly step on that stage and bring my absolute best. However, I want to become a force as a professional and a coach, helping others achieve what I WILL and more. I take pride in helping others achieve success. With all those things being achieved, my long-term goals will be for naught if I don’t fulfill my aspirations of being an amazing husband, father, and positive role model.
What workout routine has worked best for you?
As it pertains to my current goals, I am finding a great deal of success with my current training regimen. Here is what my training split looks like:
Day 1 Chest/Shoulders Day 2 Back Day 3 Arms Day 4 Legs
** There are deeper intricacies to this split, but in general this is what I follow with one full rest day on sundays
To give you an idea of what techniques, level of intensity, and total volume of my workouts I will give you a peek at my favorite day; Legs:
1) Lying Hamstring Curls 3 sets of 8 reps I work my way up to a weight that allows only 8 full range strict, very challenging repeptitions. From there I do 3 working sets, the last of which I go crazy. On the last set I drop the weight and do another set to failure, drop it again and go to failure, and then use the same weight on the last set for 30 repetitions at the bottom range of motion, completely burning out the hamstrings.
2) Leg Press w/Bands 4 sets (15,12,8,8) I used a gray and orange elitefts.com band doubled over on each side of the leg press, which pulls down the sled with a great amount of tension. The last set I stripped 2 plates off after completion and went to failure and repeated the process 1 more time, then another drop but this time I did 5 sets of 5 repetitions with constant tension but only the top end range of motion.
3) Hack Squats 3 sets (15, 12,6) After my quads are blown out from the previous exercise it doesn’t take a lot of weight or total work for that matter to cash in my quads. On the hack squat I use a full range of motion, often hitting the pin at the bottom. On the last set I used the same exact technique as on leg press. Quads=Toast!
4) Seated Leg Curl 4 sets (15,12,8,8) Because I lack developement in my lower hamstring I do multiple angles of knee flexion(curls). On this exercise I did 2 drop sets on the last set and finished with 10 forced repetitions and 10 partial repetitions at the top to burn out the hamstrings. On the seated leg curl machines I have used in the past there is a lever system such that I can assist the motion on the concentric (“curling”) portion, thus I am able to force repetitions at the end. I follow this set with 60 seconds of deep hamstring stretching.
5) Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squats 3 sets of 20 each leg This variation of a squat simply has your back leg suspended on an apparatus behind you such that you can put almost all the force production in your front leg. I do these with full range of motion and constant tension. By the time I am done with these sets it is very difficult to walk without looking like I need a bathroom break!! Because of the unilateral nature of this exercise there is a great demand to stabilize the frontal plane (thing moving side to side) and because the glute medius does a lot of stabilizing in this plane it feels like someone put a sautering iron on the outside of your buttcheeck!!
6) Seated Adduction Machine 3 sets of 10 repetitions I feel this exercise has merit to bring more inner thigh development, I cannot get the type of pump and feel on any wide stance squatting or pressing variation. For these I use a 2 second pause at both the stretched and squeezed portions of the exercise. The last set I am usually unable to reach full range of motion on the concentric or inward portion so I give assistance with my hands.
As you can see this was yesterday’s workout, as to how vivid the descriptions are. This, however, is how I conduct myself in the gym each day. Training is my “me time,” the time I get to find mental clarity and unload the psychological baggage that may have accumulated, or find serenity in the pain that I inflict. It’s an odd sense of fulfillment and a unique relationship to take yourself to physical pain far past the threshold of what would be considered mental concept of fatigue. Being able to push yourself until your limbs literally give out, then wipe the set off your brow, pick up your training notebook and shaker bottle and move to the next exercise; it’s a beautiful thing.
What is your favorite form of cardio for cutting body fat?
I have varying opinions on cardio. I view the word as a misnomer, as all exercise engages the cardiovascular system, heck life engages it. However, in the common concept of aerobic machine based activity that is adjunct to weight training (I will call it cardio for the sake of this question) I believe there are several strategies. I feel slower steady state cardio has its place and higher intensity cardio has its place as well.
For someone who is endomorphic (shorter and wider, usually carrying more bodyfat) I think morning fasted cardio at a low intensity can be very useful in dropping body fat. I also feel those in the competitve side of dieting having to lose more body fat or stubborn areas can find this form of cardio useful as well. The use of caffeine and Branch Chained Amino Acids (BCAA’s) can go a long way to promote more fat loss than muscle loss in this situation.
If someone chooses to use higher intesity exericse, such as HIIT (high intensity interval training) I do believe there is a smart way to go about it. I feel this type of cardio is more beneficial for body composition and health than longer, steady state cardio. This type of activity is dependent on glucose for energy and thus a fasted state would not be a good choice from both a body composition or performance standpoint. Here is a quick general outline of a HIIT program assuming you know your anaerobic threshold (AT), and if you don’t it’s simply when you are at the intensity were you cannot carry on even a short conversation:
– 5 minutes of a lower heart rate warm up – 30 seconds hard – 60 seconds easy – Repeat 6-10 times – 5-10 minute cool down, bringing the heart rate to where it was at warm up or close
This can be done on a stepmill, treadmill, elliptical, spin bike, or even running hills. “Hard” is a relative term and simply means a high level of exertion (speed, level, etc.) for YOU. And easy typically is the rate at which you were during warm up.
Could you outline your basic daily diet?
As of right now I am putting on muscle, so a normal training day would look like this for me:
Meal 1: – 3 Whole Organic Eggs – 8 Egg Whites w/ Spinach – 120grams Oats
Preworkout Meal: – 40 grams Whey Isolate – 110grams Oats
Intraworkout: – 30grams Casein Hydrosolate – 50grams Dextrose
Postworkout Meal: – 8oz Grass Fed Beef – 1 pack Organic jasmine Rice
Meal 2: – 8oz Turkey w/ spinach – 400grams raw weight sweet potato/red potato
Meal 3: – 8oz Wild Caught or Grass Fed Beef w/green beans – 110 grams Oats or 90grams Grits
Meal 4: – 8oz Turkey w/asparagus – 90grams Grits or 110grams Oats
Meal 5: – 50grams Whey/Casein blend – 2 tbsp Almond Butter
How do you deal with cravings for junk food, sweets and salty foods?
In the past I have been so regimented and had never cheated with meals before competing. After dieting so strictly for so long before a show you are excited to eat liberally again for the short term thereafter. However, it can become a slippery slope. I believe that our neuroendocrine systems function such that when we eat junk foods in their common day concept, we crave more, it’s just in our physiology. After some competitions I have found it hard to get back onto the metaphorical healthy diet bandwagon, but have always steered back.
For me, versus someone who doesn’t call this industry their career, it comes down to integrity. I reiterate in my head how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle as it is what I teach others to do. If I don’t follow the rules, who am I to tell someone else to, and what kind of standard am I setting for my clients? For someone who may not call the gym their office here is a good tip. Whenever you crave something that doesn’t reside on your current meal plan, ask yourself this “How will I feel after I eat X food?” You know you will enjoy the short process of taking down a given baked good, but the timecourse after is full of regret. Go over that in your head several times and your craving will seem far less significant.
What are your favorite pre and post workout meals?
For the most part, whether I am in the process of dropping bodyfat or gaining muscle, my pre and post workout meals are relatively similar, it is the meals further away from the workout window that I will alter to make the appropriate changes for current goal. For pre workout I like to mix whey protein into oatmeal, it feels almost like a treat! For post workout I have a little bit more variability. However, I love repeating breakfast with an omelet and oatmeal with fresh blueberries. Depending on my goals and the relative intensity of the day’s workout, the macronutrient counts of these meals may vary slightly (e.g. on a heavy leg day my carbohydrate content of the post-workout meal will increase).
What supplements do you take (if any) and recommend to others?
– Multivitamin – Fish Oil – Chromium – Alpha Lipoic Acid – Creatine Monohydrate – Probiotic – Betain HCL w/ Digestive Enzymes
What has the biggest impact on muscle growth and recovery?
Muscle growth and recovery necessitates an all encompassing commitment from many aspects. Nutrition, training, sleep, rest, supplements, etc., all work harmoniously with each other to create the best adaptation possible. It’s the old percentages game that you hear when someone says it’s X% diet and X% training, when the truth is they are dependent variables. When any facet of a healthy lifestyle is subpar, all aspects will suffer.
What is your favorite motivating quote?
The only way to predict the future is to create it.
What newbie mistakes did you make when you first started training?
I have made many mistakes in my “career” and I am sure there are many to come. After all it is the mistakes that we make that lead to our success. If I look back at my past there is certainly some glaring pitfalls. Overtraining and not giving my physique time to develop has to be at the top. If I were to go back in time I wouldn’t be so concerned with being so lean all year round and decrease my training volume/frequency, allowing my body to grow. If I were to do that I think I would have attained what I want to long-term even by now, if not I feel I would be significantly closer to my end goal. I also look at my obsession with training and dieting and know that if I had been more practical, and not so overzealous, I would have had better relationships and a happier life up until today to be completely blunt.
Any last advice for beginners or anyone looking to get into fitness?
My advice to anybody getting into fitness, whatever avenue and capacity that may be, is to enjoy the process. The key to success in this industry is finding longevity by creating consistency and balance. It’s about health, in both the physical and psychological manifestations. Find balance in your endeavors and be passionate about your goals. At the end of the day health and fitness are attributes of overall wellbeing, so enjoy your journey in the context of your entire life, making your diet and exercise goals a positive PORTION of your life, not all of it, as the lifestyle can be consuming.