The Art of Photographing the Female Physique

Robert Hughes, a former art critic at Time magazine, once pointed out the degree to which art used to be able to provoke outrage and instigate social change.

I was able to able to experience this phenomenon a few years ago as I was prepping for my first one-man photo exhibition. I brought in female bodybuilder photos to a local shop to be mounted and framed, but whenever I did the woman doing the work always said something negative about the women in my photos. She hated their bodies, she told me, and thought the subjects were disgusting and looked like men.

Which cost her, since I stopped bringing my work to her.

Bill Dobbins

I was irritated at first, but then it occurred to me how unusual it was that these photographs had such a power to provoke this kind of response. My photos made this woman so uncomfortable, so angry, that she had to speak out even though she wanted my business. It was as if she couldn’t help herself. And the more I thought about it the more I was convinced that the female bodybuilding physique constituted a unique and powerful subject for serious art photography.

The female body itself has always been one of the most popular of artistic subjects. Many talented artists have depicted the female body for a very long time, so being able to come up with a new approach to a subject with such a long history has to be considered an incredible opportunity.

The muscular female body celebrates contradictions and challenges categories. It can be appear sensual or explicitly sexual, or so strange and distorted as to seem totally asexual. Often, it presents an almost-familiar version of the more familiar female shape, but instead of the soft roundness we have come to expect, that shape is derived from muscle, which creates planes and angles continuously surprising in their construction.

The sculptural quality of their physique is what makes it so difficult to photograph to best effect. Much of what gives the muscularity aesthetic body its impact is lost in the translation from three-dimensional reality to the flat plane of the photograph.

For example, there are certain poses and angles from which to view the body, which more easily give the illusion of three-dimensions. I remember a scene in a movie about the sculptor Rodin in which he was shown taking hold of a reclining model and twisting her body, pulling a knee up, and arm down, trying to find just the right pose that expressed what he wanted to show about the body. Finding the most effective poses in which to photograph bodybuilders involves a process very much like this.

Lighting is also extremely important—the way light falls on the body, and the resulting combination of spectacular highlight and shadow can either reveal or obscure form, depth and physical detail. I remember reading how early photographer Edward Steichen shot a series of photographs of an egg, changing the lighting with each shot to see how different angles and light intensities affected the ovoid form. To a large degree, that kind of exercise is the essence of what it takes to create a sculptural photograph of a bodybuilding physique.

Bill Dobbins

The problem with photographing bodybuilders comes down to the nature of vision itself. We don’t “see” with our eyes, rather perception is a matter of the brain receiving, analyzing, and interpreting visual information to create the illusion that what we’re viewing is “out there” rather than “in there.”

Perception is built up in layers: The first time we see something, we’re likely to get no more than a general impression of what it’s like; over time, as we receive and process more visual information, our mental picture of what we’re looking at becomes more complete and we become much more aware of the subtle details.

The fact that knowledge comes before perception is why it’s so difficult for most people, photographers included, to fully apprehend a fully developed bodybuilding physique on first glance.

Learning to see bodybuilders properly takes time, as does developing the skills needed to photograph them. But, oddly enough, it was seeing my own photographs that allowed me to fully appreciate what these champions had achieved. I remember walking around a gallery just after my exhibition photos had been hung and suddenly realizing what these pictures were about and why the bodybuilding physique was such a fascinating subject. Until then, I’d been too busy shooting day-to-day to step back and think about what I’d accomplished.

Soon after that, I realized that other people were having the same reaction to the photographs. Instead of needing years of exposure to these bodies to appreciate them, a lot of people were able to pick up on what the bodybuilders had and were trying to accomplish just by looking at my pictures. In that sense, my photos were actually teaching them how to look at muscular bodies.

I was always taught that one function of art is to change our perception of reality. To make us see better, deeper, a different way. The fact that I have been able to accomplish this to some degree with my bodybuilding photographs is very gratifying.

But that’s proven to be harder with female bodybuilders than with men. Since the brain actually constructs perceptual reality as it goes along, seeing something new, unexpected or something that contradicts reality as you’ve always accepted it is not that easy.

Bill Dobbins

We all accept the idea of men with muscles. Whether you particularly like and appreciate muscular bodies on men or not, this type of physique doesn’t violate our basic sense of how the world is supposed to be.

The muscular, female physique is something else. It doesn’t fit with most people’s idea of “how things are supposed to be.”  Since there are virtually no accepted images of muscular women, these bodies are not simply a variation of something that has gone before.  These physiques are, in fact, a contradiction, even an attack, on our sense of reality.  This is why a change in “believing,” or perception, has to precede an alteration of vision.

However, though bodybuilding is bodybuilding, no matter who is doing it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that male and female bodybuilders look the same or can be best photographed using the same approach. Many of these women may look huge—and they usually are in comparison to most other women—but compared to male bodybuilders they’re smaller, often tiny.

It’s also a fact that men and women, bodybuilders or not, have different physiologies and structures, and we tend to view them very differently as well. The problem for both the observer and the photographer is learning to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of these bodies with the knowledge and expertise of the connoisseur. As with appreciating most art forms, the more you know the more you get out of the experience.

My role as a photographer, I believe, is to facilitate the development of that appreciation. As such, it isn’t enough to simply document what these bodies look like. A photograph is an abstraction, and there is always a choice to be made with abstractions as to what to leave in and what to leave out.  That’s why bodybuilding photography, as I see it, is rare in that it’s an artistic interpretation of an aesthetic creation.

I make a conscious effort to use the techniques at my disposal to intensify the experience of looking at these bodies. To create a graphic representation of form and detail that increases the visual impact of these bodies to the maximum degree possible.  To make the experience of looking at these women sufficiently powerful that the viewer is able to apprehend what the female bodybuilding physique is all about virtually at a glance.

Of course, these photographs are not created from nothing. I heighten reality; I don’t make it up from scratch. True, I can often create effective pictures of bodybuilders who are not necessarily the top champions, and are perhaps not in their best shape, but if fundamental structure and development of the physique are not there, I can’t make them up out of thin air.

Therefore, the work I do is essentially collaborative. It’s entirely dependent on the creative, sculptural efforts of the female bodybuilders themselves. I can only shoot the bodies they bring to my studio or on location. But there is a feedback mechanism at work as well. When these women see my pictures, this often changes the perception they have of themselves. After all, what they normally see of their own bodies is just a reflection in a mirror or an illustrative-type photograph. Most of them, in effect, have never seen what they really look like, in a truly artistic sense. They’re rarely able to fully appreciate what they’ve been able to accomplish. So, the best compliment I can receive from a bodybuilder is, “Wow, I didn’t know I looked like that!”

My photo sessions frequently change the way women present themselves on stage in their posing routines.

Just as women have been inventing what is, in effect, a new kind of female body as they go along, I have attempted to create new ways of photographing them in an attempt to keep pace. One thing this sport has taught me is how quickly the shocking becomes the so-what. We live in an age of constant novelty—change has become the expected.

That’s why I’m rarely upset when somebody tells me my photographs go too far, or that the women in my pictures are too “freaky.” As they say, it would hardly be a revolution if everyone agreed with you at the start.

Bill Dobbins

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Opportunities for Self-employed Personal Trainers

Opportunities for Self-employed Personal Trainers

If you are interested in a personal-training career and want to work for yourself, there are ample opportunities available. Launching your own personal-training business allows for programming creativity, scheduling flexibility and the ability to set your own rates—plus you can determine where you would like to train your clients.  

As the demand for personal training increases, along with clients’ desire for flexibility in terms of location and delivery method, exercise professionals have the opportunity to design unique and customized personal-training businesses.  

Opportunities for self-employed personal trainers can be loosely grouped into the following categories: 

Brick and Mortar 

Brick and mortar refers to operating your business out of a third-party location (not your home or your client’s home). While you may choose to open and operate your own training studio, you can also explore other options for having a dedicated training space.  

Some personal-training studios or smaller gyms may offer you the option to rent space for a flat fee each month, while others may choose to negotiate a portion of your training fees for access to the space. Either way, you would be responsible for finding your clients and negotiating agreements for your services. 

A less traditional brick-and-mortar option that has emerged in recent years exists in apartment complexes and residential communities. To stay competitive, these communities sometimes add attractive amenities, which typically include state-of-the-art fitness centers. Some of these centers may operate like personal-training studios or small gyms and allow you to rent space or pay a portion of your training fee per client to use the space. 

Many corporations and businesses offer on-site fitness centers, as well. While these facilities may choose to hire trainers as employees, some may instead engage with independent contractors. The facility may be managed through a third-party company or run internally. Find out who is in charge and inquire as to the opportunities available. 

Mobile Training 

Training may also take place outside of facilities. Consider creating a mobile business where you train clients individually or in groups at parks, playgrounds, other outdoor spaces or in their homes. With all mobile options, you’ll most likely need to make equipment available or train clients who can supply their own equipment.  

Keep in mind that outdoor training is weather dependent, which may affect when and where you can train at different times during the year. You will also need to consider the time needed to travel between locations when determining your scheduling and pricing.  

One important note: Always check local regulations before scheduling training sessions at a public park or other public space, as you may need to obtain permits and pay to have access. Click here to review ACE’s Shared Space Toolkit. 

Virtual Training  

Lastly, personal trainers can open up a digital storefront to train clients virtually. Personal trainers can provide workout sessions, assessments and consultations “live” (synchronously) or on demand (asynchronously). A wide variety of digital training tools exist to help trainers advertise, collect payment and schedule sessions.  

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The 7 Fitness Secrets We Had Always Known

Fitness Secrets

On a very hectic schedule with efforts to balance work and life, being fit is always necessary. Whether going to the gym, doing home workout routines and yoga, a lot of people haven’t considered these fitness secrets that we have always known. For the reason, that physical fitness does not just involve your body, but your mind as well.

Be conscious and composed

To stay fit means staying mindful about you. Be observant on your moods and emotions. If you are feeling anxious, acknowledge it and take three rounds of deep breathing. This helps in re-oxygenating the blood, hence, you could bring you’re A-Game before working out. This will give you the best results. Playing your favourite song super loud as mood music also helps in setting your mind.

Have a Tea Time

Taking a sip of caffeine could support in boosting your workout as it stimulates adrenal glands, thus improving endurance. A good hour before heading to the gym, taking a shot of matcha green tea could not only boost your performance but also gives you mental clarity. This is due to the potent antioxidants found in the drink. 

Take a Break

We have always put in mind that more workout means more progress, but is it? Rest has always been overlooked, yet it is the most important aspect of fitness. Over-training yourself could cause fatigue, given the volume and intensity of your routines. Oftentimes, we disregard muscle and joint pains and injuries just to keep ourselves in the fitness loop. Little do we know when the body is at rest, it is when physiological changes occur. A good eight-hours sleep and a break from time to time during workouts and exercise are substantive.

Less is more

We have always thought that the heavier the weight the more toned our body is. But for the ladies, lifting more and more weight could cause bulker arms and shoulder. To achieve sexy and slender, keep in mind that less is more. Keep the weights on the low and increase the reps; the more muscles you work out, even on low scales, would be very helpful. This also applies to the guys. If you just started working out, this principle is also imperative in the gradual development of your muscles.

Visual Aids

If you have been battling over going to the gym or not, it is because you lack motivation. Treating fitness as a competition rather a marathon would be a mental dilemma. Keep your eyes on the long-term goals as you build a strong success plan. Be specific in your schedule, write it down and put it somewhere you would always sweep your eyes to. With that, you are always reminded of your motivations.

Variety is the key

Steady and conventional are not a thing when you are achieving a certain physiological goal. You need to keep challenging yourself.  A change in routines is always an imposed need for development. Shift your exercises for beginners, intermediate and advance. Once you have achieved your goal, choose what routines you are going to maintain.

Be consistent

All work requires effort. In that case, working out should take more than just “enough”. It doesn’t mean you have to surprisingly push your body to the extremes but to be consistent and invest effort in your practice. Keep it fun and enjoyable, but at the same time keep it regular. A good week of training deficiency could cost you a month-long effort of muscle development. Hence, be very mindful of how consistent you are in working out.

The Testicle User’s Manual | T Nation

There’s this old Star Trek episode where the female rulers of a planet warn Kirk and McCoy about the “givers of pain and delight.” That’s kind of how I regard the testicles. Treat them right and they’ll provide delight, first by keeping your hormonal milieu up to snuff and, secondly, by providing sensory pleasure.

Treat them wrong, though, and they’ll give pain – the worst kind of pain. After all, the things are lousy with nerves and the very thought of getting whacked in the crotch is enough to make any man grimace.

Given their power to please and punish, it only makes sense we should know something about them. Here then, in no particular order, are my favorite testicle factoids.

1 – When Two Just Isn’t Enough

It’s very rare, but it’s possible to have more than two testicles. The condition is called “polyorchidism.” Men with this condition most often have three testicles, but the record, so far as we know, is five.

The condition may even explain some failed vasectomies. Since the extra testicles aren’t always readily apparent (it doesn’t necessarily look like the scrotums of afflicted men are hiding a bunch of grapes), the doctor goes blithely in and snips the vas deferens connected to two testicles, unaware that there was a third (or fourth or fifth) that’s still sending troops to the front.

2 – What’s the Normal Size?

Normal adult males have testicles ranging in size from 12 to 25 ml, although they can temporarily double in size during sex. As a point of reference, 25 ml is about 4/5ths the size of the average marshmallow.

If you really want to know how you measure up, though, you can go to an endocrinologist and ask him or her for what’s often referred to as the “endocrine rosary” or “the medical worry beads.” It’s a string of twelve wooden or plastic beads of increasing size ranging from 1 to 25 ml. They were invented in 1966 by endocrinologist Andrea Prader of the University of Zurich.

You simply isolate the testicle with your thumb and forefinger and match it up to the bead that matches it most closely in size.

There was never a bead on the endocrine rosary large enough to measure the size of the world’s biggest human testicles, though. That “honor” goes to 49-year-old Wesley Warren, whose testicles and scrotal sack weighed in at 132.5 pounds. Wesley’s condition was caused by an accumulation of lymphatic fluid called lymphadema.

While Wesley died in 2014 of a heart attack, his scrotum currently lives in Menlo Park, California where it drives a bus for the municipal transit system. What? Too soon? Sorry. Anyhow, as far as the animal kingdom in general, the blue whale is the big-ball champion, with testicles weighing in at about 22 pounds.

3 – Did Hitler Really Only Have One?

No, “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball” was not Adele’s breakout song. Instead, it was something written in Britain in 1939 to mock Nazi leaders. Numerous versions arose around the world but the original contained the following lyrics:

  • Hitler has only got one ball
  • Göring has two but very small
  • Himmler is rather sim’lar
  • But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all

Apparently the lyrics had some basis in fact. Hitler had long been rumored to have lost a testicle to shrapnel in WWI, but that wasn’t the case. A recently discovered medical exam from 1923 revealed that he did indeed have two balls but the right one was “cryptorchid,” or undescended.

4 – Lean as a Scrotum?

People in the physique biz usually use terms like “ripped” and “chiseled” to describe low body fat levels, but I think people should adopt “shredded as a scrotum” because, aside from the eyelids, it’s the part of the body with almost no subcutaneous fat.

Even so, it gets no respect, particularly from women. Many is the time I’ve heard some woman boasting about the sensitivity of her vulva while mocking my scrotum for being like an old, sun-dried, wind weathered tarp, like what you toss over the lawnmower when you’re not using it.

Sure, hear it all the time, but the fact is the scrotum has the same embryological origins as the female vulva, making it a bonafide erogenous zone and equal to the vulva in sensitivity and feel-good capability.

5 – I Shudder to Think What the Word Guacamole Derives From

The word avocado is derived from the Aztec word for testicle.

6 – How About I Just Sit in a Bucket of Retin A?

In what must be characterized as vanity run amok, some men choose to rid their scrotums of wrinkles so their ballsacks look more like the face of the child actor who played Yorki in JoJo Rabbit and less like Yoda (old Yoda).


There are actually ways to do this. One way is to (shudder) inject filler, the same kind of filler that’s used to eliminate wrinkles in the face. Scrotal “reductions” and “lifts” are also available, as well as a non-surgical laser treatment that treats a man’s “bikini area,” simultaneously removing hair and skin tags while tightening the scrotum.

7 – Let’s Swear on a Bible or Just Shake On It Instead

The word testicle comes from the Latin word testis, meaning “witness”. When in court to TESTIFY, ancient Romans had to swear an oath by placing their hand on their own testicles or, in some cases, on another man’s testicles.

8 – No Wonder Women Love to Have Them Pinned on Their Chest!

The name of the orchid plant comes from the Greek word “orkhis”, for testicle. That’s because the roots of certain orchid plants look like a pair of balls.


9 – Why Are the Balls in Such a Vulnerable Position?

The testicles of most mammals, including man, are hanging right out there for the world to see. There are exceptions, though. Elephants, aardvarks, and anteaters have theirs stored up inside their bodies, near the kidneys. Seals keep theirs just under the skin.

Even so, most of the mammals that leave their testicles exposed are quadrupeds. That means they walk on all fours, allowing their bodies to partially shield their testicles, regardless of whether inside the body or out. The quadrupeds also have their thickly muscled hind legs to give further protection.

Man, arguably, is the worst off, testicle-location wise. The organs responsible for transmitting his entire genetic complement are completely exposed except for thin layers of cotton and denim, vulnerable to foot or fist or rock-hard bicycle seat.

It’s as if FedEx trucks affixed all their packages on the front bumper where all the light bulbs, fortune cookies, porcelain figurines, macaroons, and Stradivarius violins they were delivering would bear the brunt of any collision. It’s a wonder we survived this long as a species.

There is, of course, a reason for this odd placement and it involves temperature. Many researchers believe that the testicles need to be two to three degrees cooler than the rest of the body so by hanging out there, away from excessive body heat, the sperm are kept in a mild state of cold storage.

They’re rather short-lived so they need to keep cool, calm, and relatively inactive until they reach the warm, welcoming climes of the vagina where they spring to life and hightail it to the ovum.

10 – Make Them Dance, Daddy! Make Them Dance!

Testicles move up and down according to the temperature. The dartos muscles are responsible for expanding or contracting the scrotum, bringing the testicles closer to the body when it’s cold and lowering them from the body when it’s too warm. The cremaster muscles have a similar function, but they’re attached directly to the spermatic cord.

The latter also move the balls closer to the body prior to ejaculation to protect them from overly enthusiastic pelvic thrusts.

In fact, so protective are these cremaster muscles that they’ll pull the testicles closer to the body at the first hint of danger. Japanese physicians even use the cremaster muscles as a kind of barometer to gauge the efficacy of anesthesia.

They’ll prick the inner thigh of the patient with a needle and if Mothra and Gojira fail to retreat towards their subterranean lairs, the patient is sufficiently anesthetized.

Supercharge Your Testicles and T Levels

10 Amazing Facts About Testosterone

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Subscribe & Gain

Whether you’re already stocked up, are leaving for a long vacation, or just need to take a break, you can always pause your subscription so you can pick up where you left off when you’re ready. To pause your subscription, please visit the “Subscribe & Gain’ section within your account and click the “Pause Subscription” button. Please note this is done by item, so be sure to choose “Pause Subscription” for each item within your subscriptions if you want all of them paused.

It’s easy to cancel a subscription, and there is never a commitment to continue. Changes to orders can be made up to 48 hours before the next scheduled shipment date. To cancel a Subscribe & Gain item, please visit the “Upcoming Shipments” section within your account and click the “Cancel Subscription” button for the item you wish to cancel. You’ll be prompted to confirm this action and indicate your reason for cancelling. Once you’ve selected “Cancel,” your subscription will be cancelled and no future orders will be placed. You will receive an email notification confirming this. You may reactivate your subscription at any time from the “Inactive Subscriptions” section of your Subscribe & Gain account.

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The Benefits of Using Dumbbells Over a Barbell for Chest

Doing barbell bench presses may not work your chest optimally, unless you hit the genetic lottery and everything works wonders for you. For most lifters out there, the barbell bench press is not a chest exercise at all, rather a deltoid or a triceps exercise.

This is because the chest muscles (pectorals) have a whole lot of functions and when you do barbell bench presses they can choose between transverse flexion or transverse adduction movements.

These two movements seem similar, but they’re not the same since they are very much differentiated by the position of your elbows when you perform them. Both of these movements make your upper arm move upwards to lift the weight towards the middle portion of the body in a horizontal fashion like with a dumbbell flye.

When you use a barbell to do this, your upper arm doesn’t have as many options in lifting the weight upwards because it’s essentially a bar, which means that only the first third of the entire exercise has any semblance of transverse flexion and adduction.

Since the pectoral muscles don’t lift the weight themselves while you’re doing presses, they’ll find their action in the first third of the entire exercise. After that third, your pectorals are pretty much just fixator muscles that give you more isometric tension.

This means that yes, they’ll still be useful but they won’t give you the desired results. There is, of course, a way to make barbell bench presses better and more effective at their task which is to bolster your chest, but it requires improper form and doing the presses unsafely. You can do this by pushing your elbows out of their socket meaning that they will protrude forward when you get to the top of the movement.

This will provide a little bit of extra transverse flexion and adduction, but you’ll still mostly get some scapular abduction, if your shoulders don’t wreck themselves in the process. This is risky, don’t try it.

So What Should You Do?

That’s right, use dumbbells instead of a barbell to bench press. It’s a far better alternative if performed correctly, which means you have to be very careful. Dumbbells have a much bigger motion spectrum than a barbell because you can use them to go all the way down instead of having them stop at chest level because a bar is in the way.

When you have a greater range of motion while doing presses, you can activate your pectoral muscles far more because you can boost your transverse flexion and adduction movement which happens when you start lifting.

Also, when you’re doing dumbbell bench presses, try to press your movement inwards, as if you were doing a flye. Make sure that your dumbbells don’t touch each other when you bring them to the top of the movement, but they will need to be as close as possible to make the exercise effective. This means that when you do dumbbell bench presses correctly, you will achieve more loaded transverse adduction and flexion, which means the exercise will simply do more for you.

If you want your pectoral muscles to look like the guns that they could be, always follow the rules and tips of experienced weightlifters that worked for years, even decades on their bodies.

What Should You Avoid?

I’ve seen a lot of people use dumbbells incorrectly and it’s hurting their workout. In order to avoid this, make sure that you’re not actually shortening your range of motion with dumbbells instead of extending it. It might be because of ego fragility or because the bar, as an indicator of movement and location, is removed from the equation.

Weightlifters will make use of the weight plates on the ends of the dumbbell to be able to tell when to stop lowering their weight, which leads them to misjudge and stop way too early, when the edge of the dumbbell starts reaching their shoulder. This is wrong since you’re basically shortening the motion by a few inches, so drop those dumbbell bench presses all the way down – you need them lower than your chest and you won’t get results otherwise. Always get the best out of your exercise.

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The Perpetual COVID-19 Strength Plan

“Maximise the recruitment of high-threshold muscle fibers, increase strength, muscle, and volume using this advanced training tactic.”


With the Covid-19 situation still a series of openings and lockdowns around the world it means that gyms are open in some places, while in some countries they may have to wait a little longer.



I have been getting a lot of questions especially from my clientele who live in Melbourne, Australia, since they are still under severe lockdown and have no gym access available and are wanting to have a sure-fire gameplan ready for them once those restrictions are lifted.


In saying that, I thought it might be a great idea to share the game plan I would do if my goal was to get back much of the strength that may have been lost during lockdown, muscle coordination in key lifts and of course maximising my muscle growth.


Because let’s face it, building an aesthetically attractive and masculine physique is the goal of 99% of the male population.


Let me introduce you to the Cluster Set Method, while this method is not necessarily new I am often surprised at how little publicity this awesome method actually receives let alone how many coaches actually use or know how to use this method within their programming.


Now, being a male myself I do pride myself on having some sort of commendable strength related to my big lifts but my priority is and always will be about building an aesthetically attractive and masculine physique. Let me explain why I feel this method is necessary to kick-start your training coming out of lockdown.


Why the Custer Set Method

Whether you have just come out of lockdown or are still patiently waiting you most likely have been performing some sort of bodyweight, resistance banded or dumbbell-based training without any of the heavier more intense barbell work that you may have been normally performing in the gym.


While you may have been able to perform variants of exercises like the bench press, squat or deadlift and many others there will still be a degree of inefficiency in performing these lifts and expecting yourself to be where you were at before lockdown.


I know some of your may be in a hurry to build muscle and get back into shape but it’s been long established that muscle growth from a training program doesn’t actually happen for a while – it takes around 3-5 weeks before any substantial muscle growth will occur!


The first 2-3 weeks of any new program there will be a neuromuscular adaptation before any muscular adaptation (growth) will occur. So it makes even more sense to spend time getting this initial phase of training right so that once your body is primed you can take advantage of the muscle you may have not been able to build if you just went balls out from the get go.



Another reason why this method is a perfect starting point has to do with your ability to coordinate muscles within exercises as this is crucial to your ability to build muscle.


By performing lifts at a high enough level of intensity you can recruit high-threshold motor units which means you will be stimulating a higher number of muscle fibers within the muscle of that lift and in time will improve your muscles recruitment and coordination.


This means by simply stepping back in to the gym you are opening yourself up to a new stimulus that the body can adapt to and your motivation levels are going to be at an all-time high. The perfect time to take advantage of what you could consider as a potentiation phase that will set you up nicely before progressing into a more muscular hypertrophy specific plan of attack.


Understanding Cluster Sets

Firstly, it’s important to understand that the central nervous system is in charge of the recruitment of motor neurons, starting with the smaller motor units before the larger motor units.


This is known as the Henneman Size Principle. 1/p>


Remember I mentioned when lifting at a high enough level to recruit high-threshold motor units, all this means is that your body will recruit the smaller motor units and thus muscle fibers before it can recruit the larger muscle fibers so it is important to make sure you are truly lifting at the recommended percentage of your lifts which you will find in the subsequent sections below.


Now, cluster sets are when you perform a certain number of reps, rest a short amount of time, then perform the same amount of reps or slightly lower for a given amount of “intra-set clusters”.


By lifting at this high level of intensity it will expose you to greater amounts of volume being lifted at this intensity within a set.


What makes this even sweeter is when considering muscular hypertrophy, the intensity of which we lift plays a significant role from both a % of your 1RM and the proximity to momentary muscular failure.


So when we use cluster sets we have the intensity side taken care of and when we add the short rest periods between reps or ‘clusters’ your body has just enough time to replenish some energy (ATP) so you can continue lifting at that intensity.



A key point to what I have just mentioned is to make sure you are lifting at a high enough level of intensity so it would be wise to have a solid understanding of your 1RM or even performing a strength test before beginning this method to further pinpoint your exact percentages and weight in which you will need to be lifting with.


In summary don’t use a weight that allows you to complete each cluster set too comfortably. This is going to go a long way in allowing you to become more neurologically efficient within the movements and your ability to recruit muscle fibers.


Cluster Method Workout Placement

I am sure you already have an idea with what exercises will be used and when to perform them but let’s quickly go over the basics. The primary exercises or ‘A series’ of your workout is where the cluster sets will be programmed.


The sets following the A series will be backed off in regards of intensity and situated within the functional hypertrophy (6-8 reps) & hypertrophy (9-12 reps) strength quality. The intent behind these exercises is to further fatigue each muscle group by focusing on maximum tension rather than load purely.


While the cluster set method can be used across the full spectrum of ranges, it’s predominantly known for being used with loading patterns of 1-5 reps per cluster.


For this program and for the purpose of maximising the recruitment of high-threshold motor units, we will be using the clusters within a 1-2 rep loading scheme.


How to Perform Cluster Sets

The general approach is to use a weight heavy enough to perform the target number of reps based off the first set. While there are many different variants in how to perform cluster sets this will also change the required percentage to lift with.


In our case we will be working off 90% of your 1RM, so the perfect approach would be to either already know your 1RM or to perform a strength test the week before you actually start in order to have a better handle on your percentages.


Let’s use the bench press for example. If my first set of clusters is 2-1-1-1 and I know I could maximally lift 150kg for 2 reps, I would then use 90% of that weight for my initial set of clusters.


The first cluster set would look like this:


  • 300 lbs (135 kg) for 2 reps (rest for 15 seconds)
  • 1 rep (rest for 15 seconds)
  • 1 rep (rest for 15 seconds)
  • 1 rep (rest for 180 seconds)


Now that our bases are covered, let’s dig into the rest of the program.


Programming Basics

Due to the high amount of intensity that will be lifted within each session, this will be a 4-day intensification phase rotating between a lower & upper body day focus that will last 4 weeks.


The lower body days will see the primary lifts rotated between a squatting & hip hinge movement pattern.


The upper body days will see a super set format used where there will be a shared focus between push/pull movement patterns in the horizontal & vertical planes.


As you move into each successive week, there will be 1 rep added into each cluster set, this will see you complete your final week of cluster sets for reps of 2-2-2-2.


  • Week One – 2-1-1-1
  • Week Two – 2-2-1-1
  • Week Three – 2-2-2-1
  • Week Four – 2-2-2-2


The exercises after your ‘A series’ are all about maintaining continuous tension. Inside your B & C series of exercises, it is important to use a weight that is heavy enough to complete the target rep range whilst also making sure you can maintain the required tempo.


Across the 4-week intensification phase, your upper body will see a total of 22-24 working sets per session, and the lower body will see a total of 17 working sets per session. This will set you up nicely for your next phase where I would suggest a 6-8 week muscle hypertrophy specific phase.



What Do You Mean By Tempo?

The tempo in which we lift within any given exercise is known as ‘Time Under Tension’ (TUT). This just refers to the 4 phases of lifting that are seen within each rep. (See image below)


The Perpetual COVID-19 Strength Plan - Fitness, Exercise, dumbbells, lower body, cluster training, basic strength, workout programming, upper body, cluster sets, pandemic, covid-19, muscle fiber recruitment


So if we use the bench press as an example and the tempo used in the above image of 4-2-1-0.


The 4, would see you lower the bar at a 4 second count.

The 2, would see you pause at the bottom isometric (hold) for 2 seconds.

The 1, would see you lift the weight back up in 1 second.

The 0, would see you have no hold at the top isometric.


As you will see below, I have actually also used the letter ‘X’ in the third column or concentric portion of the lift. This simply means that you need to emphasis lifting explosively.


The Workouts and Schedule

Below you will find the weekly schedule that will see you start with your week with the upper body. Due to intense nature of this program the lower body is always performed after the upper body day to allow any of the back muscles and the erector spinae that may be taxed to get enough rest in and not impede your ability to complete the upper body lifts.


Please know that an active rest day means to not just sit around all day. A simple daily step goal of 8,000-10,000 will do the trick.


MondayUpper Body 1
TuesdayLower Body 1
WednesdayActive Rest day
ThursdayUpper Body 2
FridayLower Body 2
SaturdayActive Rest Day
SundayRest day (take one full day off per week)


Upper Body 1 – Phase 1
A1. Neutral Grip Pull Up62-1-1-140X090 seconds
A2. Flat DB Press Pronating62-1-1-140X090 seconds
B1. Bent Over Single Arm Supported DB Row – Prone Grip36-830X175 seconds
B2. Seated Single Arm DB Arnold Press36-8302075 seconds
C1. 60 Degree Incline DB Curl – Supinated28-1030X060 seconds
C2. Ez-Bar Triceps Extension28-1030X060 seconds


Lower Body 1 – Phase 1
A1. Trap Bar Deadlift62-1-1-140X0180 seconds
B1. DB Split Squat46-840X075 seconds
B2. Prone Leg Curl – Plantarflexed46-830X175 seconds
C1. BB Hip Thrust38-10302045 seconds
C2. Unilateral DB Farmers Walk – 25m each side38-1030X045 seconds


Upper Body 2 – Phase 1
A1. Incline Bench Press62-1-1-140X090 seconds
A2. Barbell Bent Over Row – Prone Grip62-1-1-140X090 seconds
B1. Flat DB Press – Neutral Grip36-830X075 seconds
B2. Single Arm Lat Pulldown – Supinating36-8301175 seconds
C1. Cable Rope French Press28-1020X060 seconds
C2. Seated DB Hammer Curl28-1030X060 seconds


Lower Body 2 – Phase 1
A1. Safety Bar Back Squat62-1-1-140X0180 seconds
B1. DB FFE Split Squat46-840X090 seconds
B2. Kneeling Leg Curl – Dorsiflexed46-840X075 seconds
C1. 45 Degree Back Extension38-1030X275 seconds
C2. Cable Woodchop312-1430X060 seconds


Sports Nutrition Considerations

Seeing as though your performance will be of importance and to tolerate these higher intensities being lifted and overreaching nature, I would add in pre-workout 5g of creatine monohydrate alongside 5g of beta-alanine for further benefits in endurance performance and increase repetitions to failure.


However, if you don’t enjoy the tingling sensation known when using beta-alanine, you can also spread your dosages into 1-2g taken 3x throughout the day. 3, 4


Where to from here?

Once completing this phase of programming and IF your goal is to maximise muscle growth, I would highly recommend moving into a muscular hypertrophy specific plan of attack over the next 8-16 weeks depending on how much time you can commit to building muscle.


Whether you are an aspiring physique competitor or simply a physique enthusiast, this is the best plan of attack to follow after completing the cluster set method.



1. Culbertson, J. Y., Kreider, R. B., Greenwood, M., & Cooke, M. (2010). Effects of beta-alanine on muscle carnosine and exercise performance: A review of the current literature. Nutrients, 2(1), 75–98.

2. Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., Candow, D. G., Kleiner, S. M., Almada, A. L., & Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 18.

3. Milner-Brown, H. S., Stein, R. B., & Yemm, R. (1973). The orderly recruitment of human motor units during voluntary isometric contractions. The Journal of Physiology, 230(2), 359–370.

4. Robinson, R. (2009). In mammalian muscle, axonal wiring takes surprising paths. PLoS Biology, 7(2)

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How a Smart Lawyer Eats Before and After a Workout 

The average lawyer has a bad diet to go along with their demanding and highly stressful lifestyle.

It starts with late night document reviews with free Chinese food or pizza. It continues with free donuts to get you there early and even free snacks so you don’t leave the office until you have no other choice.

Combine this with hours spent sitting at your desk, and it is why many law firms are making their attorneys fat. Smart lawyers force themselves to stick to a healthy diet and workout regime.

The best attorneys choose a diet that fuels them through their workout and through the day. Let’s learn how a smart lawyer eats before and after a workout.

Eat Healthy Snacks Around the Time of Your Workout

Don’t grab a candy bar to reward yourself for spending an hour at the gym. Have a protein bar instead. Look for low sugar, moderate carb and ideally high protein foods to eat a few hours before an evening workout.

Think cheese, almonds, and bananas instead of bagels, donuts, and gummy bears.

A malpractice lawyer has added reason to eat healthy and present healthy snacks to the team. You’re well aware of the responsibility you have to foster healthy choices in others. 

Stay Hydrated

Stay Hydrated

Attorneys are expected to work sixty-hour work weeks, and some clock more than seventy hours a week regularly. They may try to power through the day by drinking coffee and energy drinks throughout the day. This dehydrates you.

It can cause all kinds of problems if you try to go for a long walk on your lunch break or hit the gym after work. The solution is to stay hydrated. Drink as much water as you drink dehydrating beverages.

For example, grab an orange juice to go with a cup of coffee. Drink water instead of energy drinks in the afternoon, and drink plenty of water before and after your workout. This has the side benefit of helping you to quickly get to sleep at night.

Avoid Alcohol

Avoid alcohol

Attorneys are at risk of bad choices due to their stressful lifestyle, often excused as something to relieve the stress.

The ABA did a study that found just over a third of lawyers engage in hazardous drinking.

They’re at increased risk of alcohol dependence. If you want to stay healthy, don’t drink a beer at the end of your workout or relax with two glasses of wine at the end of the day. And go to the gym instead of going out for a drink with friends to burn off stress. 

Eat Healthy Meals Regularly

Eat Healthy Meals Regularly

It doesn’t matter if you work out before heading to the office, on your lunch break, or at the end of the day. Eat healthy meals regularly. Don’t skip breakfast, eat a heavy lunch, and expect to do well at the gym.

Don’t snack throughout the day and expect to have the energy for an hour at the gym, either. Having regularly scheduled meals has other benefits, as well. You won’t suffer a blood sugar crash that leaves you craving unhealthy snacks. 

Vegetarian diet bodybuilder


Clearly, the impact of health and well being on a professional lawyer is critical. The best attorneys choose a diet that fuels them through their workout and through the day. Take these key points into your daily life and see your professional career thrive!

-Terry Asher

Terry Asher

After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!

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How a Smart Lawyer Eats Before and After a Workout 

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How a Smart Lawyer Eats Before and After a Workout 


The best attorneys choose a diet that fuels them through their workout and through the day. Let’s learn how a smart lawyer eats before and after a workout.


Terry Asher

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Gym Junkies

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