& CONDITIONING PROFILES #5 - Lou Schuler
Schuler, CSCS, is the fitness director of Men's Health magazine
(www.menshealth.com). Lou is most interested in fitness
and all that encompasses nutrition, weight loss, and strength
and conditioning. He has also been involved with two recent
books written for men looking to lose belly fat and gain
muscle mass. You can find "The Testosterone Advantage Plan"
and "The Belly-off Program" on the Men's Health website.
Lou, thanks for joining us. Let's start with your educational
I have a bachelor's degree in journalism (a BJ, unfortunately)
from the University of Missouri, and nine-tenths of a master's
degree in creative writing from the University of Southern
California. I started working out when I was 13, and it's
great to have a job in which exercise is not only part of
my life, but is also a key component of my work.
You've been part of many books and feature workouts for
the magazine. What are some of the highlights?
I guess my favorite moments come when I feel I've gotten
new ideas out to the readers, or found new ways to present
ideas. I really enjoyed the institution of workout series
in the magazine, which allow readers to follow a program
from a great trainer or strength coach from one issue to
got a lot of satisfaction from integrating ideas and sources
we were using in the magazine into Men's Health books. There
used to be a complete separation between the magazine and
books, but now we work closely together, and I think that's
improved both areas of our brand.
more personal level, I'm proud of The Testosterone Advantage
Plan book, which I worked on with Adam Campbell, Mike Mejia,
Jeff Volek, and an editor named Steve Salerno. Guys have
gotten great results from the workout (designed by Mike)
and the diet (created by Jeff), and that's gratifying. Plus,
a lot of people told us they enjoyed reading the book as
well as using it, which is what a writer wants to hear.
other personal accomplishment I'm proud of is getting my
C.S.C.S. from the NSCA. For a guy who never took a science
class beyond my junior year in high school, it took a lot
of studying to learn enough exercise physiology to pass
When did you begin to apply weight training to athletics?
In sports, I usually came in last, which is why I started
taking training seriously. I loved sports, but I would often
find myself the slowest, weakest guy on the field. The only
way to stay in the game was to get stronger and faster.
So in all of your experiences, what tips can you pass along
for developing strength, speed, or muscle?
Find the smartest people, master their ideas, and then synthesize
them to fit your body, your schedule, and your goals. I'm
a journalist, so I hunt down the best ideas and deliver
them to readers.
works for me is low reps. I don't feel as if I get much
benefit at all when I go above 6 reps whether I'm doing
near-maximal weights for strength or lighter weights for
What about for losing body fat?
I like Don Alessi's workouts. You either do sets in the
10-12-rep range with incomplete recovery to facilitate fat
loss or you do near-maximal weights in a circuit (three-rep
sets with 15 seconds rest between reps). I'm still not sure
why it works, but when I tried it for a couple weeks, I
got such a powerful metabolic boost that I think I lost
an inch off my waist.
Men's Health clearly makes an effort to expose readers to
new exercises. What are some of your favorite exercises?
My favorites now are the ones I never used to do. I had
shoulder problems dating back to when I was 14, so I couldn't
do barbell bench presses without a lot of discomfort until
I got ART (Active Release) on that shoulder about three
years ago. I started benching seriously about a year ago,
and I've gotten fairly obsessive about it.
other one I really like is the one-armed snatch with an
EZ-curl bar. It just feels like real, old-time weight lifting.
I also do a one-armed lateral raise in which I let go of
the dumbbell above my head, and catch it on the way down.
People told me about seeing Adam Archuletta doing it with
his trainer, Jay Schroeder, and I tried it and liked it.
I start with the weight down near the floor, so it seems
to use the same muscles as the snatch, which is why I alternate
That's an odd exercise. It's even somewhat difficult to
understand. What other exercises do you recommend more folks
start using in their resistance training programs?
I see a lot of guys still doing the beginner exercises-the
leg presses and lat pulldowns-and wondering why they stopped
making progress over a year or two. It's hard to tell a
guy that once his body has made all the adaptations to those
exercises, they aren't going to help him do anything but
maintain what he already has. I went through that for decades.
I started lifting when I was 13, and I didn't start doing
the serious power exercises and low-rep protocols until
a few years ago, when I was in my 40's.
a guy's been lifting a while and wants to get more serious,
he needs to base his programs on the big free-weight exercises-squats,
deadlifts, bench presses, rows-and the serious body-weight
moves, like pullups and dips.
feels completely different since I started doing all that.
I'm not sure how dramatic the visual differences are, although
my wife and I laugh at pictures of me from four or five
years ago. I looked a lot softer.
Getting back to the benchmark exercise of resistance training,
what has helped you the most on your bench press?
The biggest factor was being introduced to the Westside
exercise techniques and workout systems. Once I focused
on the bench press, I got better at it. I'm still not particularly
strong. My best bench is 255, and I finally got that about
a month ago after being stuck at 245 for more than six months.
But I enjoy the challenge of trying to improve it, and as
long as I walk into the weight room each day with a purpose
and some adrenaline, I'll keep pumping.
What are some strength training secrets that you think everyone
should know about?
The longer you lift the more you have to design your workouts
around heavy weights with low repetitions. (Assuming no
steroid use, naturally.) Everything needs to be periodized,
of course, and there are a number of good periodization
protocols to choose from.
magazines and books still focus on the beginner protocols
and the beginner exercises, and I think guys eventually
hit the wall on those. Their bodies are still capable of
making gains, but they aren't using the right stimuli.
strength, in my view, is its own reward. Aside from the
muscle you gain, it's just fun to walk into the gym and
use heavier weights than you were using the year before.
You've been one of the original users of the CB ATHLETICS
"Strength!" program. This manual should be available before
the end of 2002 for all of our readers. Can you tell us
what your progress has been?
My bench press has gone from 225 (which I did once in my
life, about three years ago) to 255. I don't know what my
max squat is, but a couple weeks ago I was doing doubles
with 265. My best deadlift is 365 or 375, which leads me
to believe I'll be able to squat a lot more as my knees
get better. (They've been pretty battered from playing basketball,
which I took up at the age of 36.)
in the standard exercises, I'm using 20-30% more weight
than ever before. For example, yesterday I did sets of 4-5
hammer curls with 45-pound dumbbells.
pretty cool to be lifting the heaviest weights of my life
at this age, after more than three decades of training.
What forms of training improved your basketball game the
For a while, the power cleans and snatches really improved
my vertical. I actually touched the rim about a year ago.
I don't think I'd done that since high school, when I was
about 40 pounds lighter. But then I pulled a groin and my
knees became chronically sore. I think that overall strength
helped, just because the opponent I was covering had to
work harder to get to the basket.
played for a few months, though. I took the summer off to
give my knees a break, and now that my knees feel better,
I'm not sure I want to batter them again. I guess I'll start
playing again when we move back to the indoor court. I do
miss the games, and I think my body misses those full-court
workouts; I've probably added an inch to my waist since
I stopped playing.
Do you consider females and males to have the same training
needs? Do you consider older people and younger people to
have the same training needs?
I've never trained women or tried to reach them as an audience,
but the research I've seen shows me women should be training
more like men. Heavier weights, fewer reps, more difficult
lifts. (Of course, a lot of men should be training more
like men, too, in my opinion.)
older people, I think that they need a more intense focus
on strength and power. Most senior-training programs focus
on hypertrophy and muscular endurance, but power declines
even faster than strength and muscle mass. A loss of power
may cost seniors more in their quality of life than a loss
of strength or muscle tissue.
to a presentation on this subject at the NSCA conference
in Las Vegas this July, and the presenter concluded that
seniors should do three workouts a week, including heavy,
light and medium days-exactly what CB ATHLETICS recommends
in The Men's Health Belly-Off Program, available in bookstores
What 3 quick nutrition tips do you recommend?
If a guy's trying to develop strength and muscle mass while
minimizing body fat, I'd say he has to base his meals on
animal protein and animal and vegetable fat, with carbohydrates
almost as a condiment. The carbohydrates are there for flavor,
variety, fiber, vitamins and minerals. They aren't there
to fill you up.
would be the standard one about having a protein or protein-creatine
shake right after your workouts.
What is your philosophy on training, life, and careers?
an expert. The world is filled with people who know a little
about a lot of things. But in any given area, there are
few people who have the desire and discipline to master
all the relevant facts and nuances. Find something you're
passionate about, master it, and convince people to pay
for your expertise.
out exactly what you want, and then go out and get 80 percent
of it. You might get lucky and achieve 90 percent. But if
you try for everything you've ever wanted, you become Elvis
or Donald Trump, a self-parody.
So what are your goals?
I'd like to write a fitness and health book that synthesizes
all the great ideas I've used in my own programs and my
I'm currently finishing up a mystery novel set in the fitness
industry, which I hope to get published and turn into a
What type of advice would you give to future Strength and
Conditioning coaches, researchers, writers, etc.?
It seems like people can go one of two directions: Adhere
closely to the current paradigm, find lots of work, and
have a safe career. Or experiment with your own ideas and
those of cutting-edge trainers and researchers, and perhaps
break out of the pack...
What are the 3 top things you have learned that you would
like to pass on to the readers? This could be anything,
whether research related, training related, education related,
flexible in your views. Everything we think we know now
will be proved wrong in a few years, then will come back
and be accepted as truth, then will get discredited again.
what the people most important to your life and career need,
figure out how you can provide it, and make sure they understand
you can do it.
out what you need and want, but understand you probably
won't be able to get it until you've provided for others.
Maybe this is ridiculously obvious, but it took me a long
time to figure out that other people really don't care what
I need or want, and it's only when I began to look at life
and work in terms of the needs of others that anything began
making sense to me. That doesn't mean I'm not out to fulfill
my personal goals, or that anyone else should be. It just
means that you have to understand other people's motivations
before you can successfully work with them.
You recently attended the NSCA conference. Can you give
a brief summary of the key events or information that you
The most interesting lecture I attended was by Bill Kraemer
of UConn, who posited that a lot of current training methodology
is wrong. Particularly, he believes that multiple sets of
a few reps with a full recovery between sets are the keys
to muscle hypertrophy. That certainly meshes with my personal
experience, but runs counter to nearly everything you see
recommended in fitness and bodybuilding magazines.
What other conferences do you go to, and of what value are
they too you?
I go to ACSM each year. I find it more and more stressful.
This year, in particular, it seemed like there was too much
information to get my arms around.
Yes, there is a lot of information there and a lot of it
is excellent and will dictate future training and nutrition
strategies. Lou, who influences your teaching, writing,
Right now, CB ATHLETICS is the most influential training
source in my life. I've been focusing on strength and power
in my own workouts for the past year and a half or so, and
all my workouts come from CB ATHLETICS (www.cbathletics.com/programs.htm).
back a few years, I guess the first really influential trainer
I came across was Charles Poliquin, whose ideas I was introduced
to by Mike Mejia and Alwyn Cosgrove. That really changed
the way I thought about training, and about the sort of
recommendations we give our readers.
I met and worked with Ian King on a variety of projects,
and I guess I've incorporated more of his ideas into Men's
Health fitness coverage than any other trainer's. I think
the workout series we did with him in the first six issues
of 2001 was our most successful ever.
I've been working more Westside ideas into my own workouts,
thanks to CB ATHLETICS, and Adam Campbell and I have been
putting more of those ideas into the magazine as well.
What areas of training do you think need the most research
(regardless of whether or not they will ever get it)?
I'd like to see more research into fiber-type distribution
and its influence on body composition, obesity, and other
issues. I have a theory that it's a nearly complete waste
of time to take a big, thick, overweight guy and have him
do a lot of aerobics to try to get him "in shape." If he's
that big and thick in the first place, my guess is that
he's fast-twitch dominant, and in that case it makes more
sense to develop his muscles and maintain his metabolism
through strength training, and worry about weight loss on
the nutrition side.
also like to see more attention paid to research that's
already been done. For example, Astrup's group did a weight-loss
study, published in '99, which showed a 25% protein diet
led to substantially more weight loss than a 15% protein
diet, when fat and total calories were equal. And Walter
Willett's Nurse's Health Study showed much lower heart-disease
rates among women habitually eating 25% protein, vs. the
protein in the diet leads to a leaner body and longer life,
why do nutritionists still talk about it in terms of how
little you need to function? Seems to me, we should be talking
about the benefits of more protein, rather than trying to
convince people they don't even need as much as they're
What aspect of training and health do you see science having
a huge impact on in the near future?
I think the biggest problem now is that science has thoroughly
confused the public. Carbohydrates were the wonder food
and meat was evil, and now the reverse seems true. Hormone
replacement was great for women and now it's terrible. Hormone
replacement for men was unnecessary, and now it's looking
like an important part of a healthier aging process.
the research, I feel less confused than ever, but the public
just hears the sound bites, and is frustrated beyond words.
I don't know the solution to this, because you can't expect
the public to scan research when they have questions.
for the time being, health and fitness is becoming an ecclesiastical
battlefield, with people making decisions based on faith
and superstition rather than scientific information. And
that scares me.
Thank you for your insights Lou. Keep bringing the readers
of Men's Health such great information! Thanks so much for
the interview and we look forward to what Men's Health magazine,
your fitness books, and your novels have to offer. You can
hear more from Lou by becoming a member of the Men's Health
fitness message board through the Men's Health website.