Mike Furci, creatine, lower back, gyms

Q&A with Michael Furci - Benefits and side effects of Creatine; lower back exercises and evaluating gyms

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Q: Mike,

I've just begun recently working out after a hiatus due to school. I had a couple questions I wanted to hear your thoughts on:

1) What do you think of creatine and its effectiveness/usage?
2) What are your opinions about the body getting dependant on artificial production due to use of supplements like creatine and Tribex, etc?
3) My main focus in my workout is to try to take care of my upper chest, since it just seems to slope out as it goes down. I read your perfect pecs article, but when I do similar exercises for my inner chest, it doesn't feel like it's taking care of it. What can you suggest to take care of that part of my workout?

Thanks for your time,
Parhaum, T.
Baltimore, MD

A: Parhaum, T.

Creatine is probably the most studied supplement there is. It came under fire a few years back with concerns about dehydration and cramping. These concerns were put to rest after many researchers found no link between creatine and dehydration among athletes. After literally hundreds of studies there appears to but no negative side effects associated with creatine usage.

What many people don't know is that creatine is found naturally in the food we eat. It is found in high levels in red meat. As a matter of fact, this is the main reason why people who eat red meat regularly don't seem to get good results with the supplementation of creatine. Creatine does, however, yield great results for most people. 

Creatine will work very well for about 30 to 40 percent of the people who use it. Another 30% of the people who use it will claim good results. But unfortunately, about 30% of all creatine users report almost no effect at all. Many of these people may be getting it in their diets.

When taking creatine, use 20 grams per day for the first seven days as a loading phase. Do you need to load up? No, but your muscles will reach their saturation point quicker. After the loading phase, use 10 grams a day for five more weeks. Take the next three to four weeks off, and start again.

Creatine hit the market about 10 years ago. Since then it has been the most popular sports supplement of all time. This is because of one reason -- it works.

Creatine works by giving the muscle cell what it needs to store ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). ATP is the energy source our muscles use for heavy-duty short-term workloads, the type used in weight training. Creatine has been shown to increase strength in most people by 10%. Endurance athletes will find the use of creatine to be a waste of time because it does not affect that energy system.

Your second question is interesting. I've only heard this maybe two other times. Does the body get dependant on artificial production? No. If you take supplements like Tribex, creatine or whatever in the manner they were intended, your body will go right back to where it is genetically supposed to be. Studies have shown that even those who take anabolic steroids for extended periods of time (longer than a year), once they got of the drugs their bodies returned to functioning normally.

I seem to be getting a lot of chest development questions over the last six months, so you are definitely not alone. I've said and written it hundreds of times and I'll write it again: You cannot change the shape of a particular muscle. You can make the muscle bigger, and you can make it smaller, but the basic shape will always remain. If we could change the shape of our muscles, every body builder would have huge peaked biceps and thick Arnold-like chests. I don't care what you've read or whom you hear it from. There are no magical exercises out there. If you've tried different angles, exercises and workouts and still notice no significant difference, than you probably are never going to have a big upper chest. Learn to take what you have and run with it. We all want what we don't have.

When I started to get interested in bodybuilding, I wanted arms like Arnold. But then again, who doesn't? Anyway, for years I was hell bent on getting that 22'' arm. After five years of serious training and learning about the physiology of the body I realized that a 22-inch bicep was not in the cards for me. This realization, however, did not stop me from trying to have the best arms I could. I'm still trying, by the way. Do not get discouraged that you're not going to have a chest like Arnold's. Start looking at improving what you have. Use Arnold as motivation, not a goal.

Q: Hello Mike,

Great article on abs, real good stuff. Can you recommend any stuff for lower back? I recall that with opposing muscle groups you really have to watch for a balanced strengthening. I should think that this would be especially important with the abs/lower back. I am mainly doing supermans, floor hyperextensions and hyperextensions on the stability ball. Once I'm well into that then it's on to deadlifts. Any other ideas?


A: Steve,

First let me thank you for the compliment.

What you are doing for your lower back is an excellent way to increase strength and stability. The only thing I could see adding would be weight while performing stability ball hyperextensions. Hold a dumbbell or a plate with your arms extended in front of you. This is a great way to add progressive resistance to this exercise. But remember, without strong abs your lower back, no matter how strong it is, will remain a weak point. It is your abdominal wall that produces intra-abdominal pressure against the anterior (front) surface of the spine. It is this pressure and proper form that keep the spine safe.

Q: Hi, I recently moved into an apartment complex that has a small gym. By small I mean they have a bike, treadmill, one of those other machines (can't remember the name of it) and a small combo weight machine. It has a chest press, pull down and a couple of other things to do too. It's all cable and weight, if that helps. My question for you is this: I want to use this gym because I can't afford a real gym right now and I would like to know if you have any type of workout regimen or system for using these small gyms.

Thank you,
Houston, Texas

A: Brett,

Fitness areas in apartment complexes are becoming commonplace. There are two problems I see with almost all apartment fitness areas. One, there isn't anybody who is qualified to help put the tenants on a program. And two, these fitness areas are usually worthless. Just like the tennis courts and the occasional basketball area, fitness areas are used as a selling tool. The management knows this is an inexpensive way to add value to charge higher rent. I drive by apartment complexes almost daily and almost never see anyone using the tennis courts or basketball hoops. Even less people use the fitness areas.

My question to you is how serious are you about working out? I've heard your excuse from many different people over the years. "I can't afford a real gym right now." This is as bad as, "I just don't have the time." You mean to tell me, Brett, that you can't afford $20.00 to $40.00 a month, which is what an average gym membership will cost? You don't have the money because it's not a priority in your life. If $20.00 to $40.00 a month were all it cost to have your way with a different Penthouse Pet each week, I guarantee you'd come up with the money. 

My advice to you is to make a commitment to being fit and join a gym. A good gym offers motivation, education, equipment and a great atmosphere. The average person lacks greatly in motivation anyway, and an apartment complex fitness area is just not going to cut it. 

Q: What is a D. Y. Row?

A: A D. Y. Row is a piece of back equipment made by Hammer Strength. It is named after one of the most successful bodybuilders of all time, Dorian Yates. Dorian became known for doing reverse grip bent-over rows. He used an incredible amount of weight, sometimes upwards of 500 lbs. Dorian had arguably the best back of any bodybuilder ever. Since he was one of the few bodybuilders doing bent-over barbell rows, many attributed his outstanding development to this movement. Hammer Strength made the D. Y. Row to simulate the movement of a reverse grip bent-over barbell row. The D. Y. Row, although one of the best pieces one can use to increase the development and strength of their back, should not replace doing free-weight movements. 


Got a question for Mike? Send it to mike@bullz-eye.com. 

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