Training a Mr. Olypmia Competitor… The Raw Footage

Chasing the Olympia through the Recovery Window

When we think of the Mr. Olympia competition typically the first thing that comes to mind is the mountain of muscle forged in the iron houses all over the world, relentless hours of grinding, rep after rep, meal after meal, and day after day.  All of this sacrifice and dedication is in the pursuit of presenting the best package on the day for the judges and the fans.  However, as the athlete progresses and develops the number of tricks and techniques that are still available to progress their body becomes smaller and smaller. The systems of hypertrophy that worked four years prior may no longer provide the necessary stimulus to make the changes that to push a body from 285lbs over 300lbs.

When I was introduced to Ben Pakulski almost two years ago he was eight weeks out form the Arnold Classic and steam rolling into what would be a fourth place at the prestigious event. However, he was running into the reality that all elite sportsman do and that is the glass ceiling of human potential. The point where it seems that there are fewer thing ahead then behind that would allow for an increase in performance and change. Ben was at this point in a lot of ways due to the current training paradigm and if he wanted to become a top three guy in the world with in the next 12 months he was going to need to change his reality and smash his glass ceiling.

We sat down an outlined what he was currently doing to achieve the success that he had already experienced and looked at ways to maximize his day so that he could increase the volume that was needed to transform a sub 7% man that weighed in excess of 290lbs to a world beating beast over 300lbs and the only conclusion that I could come to was twice daily training and this is why.

When you are looking at maximizing hypertrophy gains for the sake of bodybuilding there are a couple of issues that often arise in terms of program design and structure.  With the majority of bodybuilders that train they typically break their week into body parts based on aesthetic need analysis much a kin to when Arnold Schwarzenegger referred to bodybuilding in terms of a sculpture adding clay to shape the delts in the movie Pumping Iron. Bodybuilders will set up their days based on where they need to add muscle to their frames. If the Athlete is very leg dominant they may only train legs once every 7-10 days while hitting their chest and back once every four days due to the fact that it is a genetic weakness in comparison.

Very few current pros are genetically balanced in terms of fast responding and slow responding muscle groups, they all have something that does not need to be smashed as consistently as the other areas of the body and Ben was no different. Ben is naturally very leg and shoulder dominate, but due to injuries and or long-term programing (which I will explain in a moment) he needed to bring up his back, biceps and chest to achieve that aesthetic balance.

However, like a lot of athletes in this sport with the once daily training systems the body can only tolerate so much volume per training session regardless of genetics or nutritional superiority.  So the body will start to take on the look of their training design not just their genetic potential. A good example of this again was Arnold in terms of his calve development, his long-term program design up until that point had never made his lower leg a priority so it appeared that Arnold had a muscular weakness but as we know this clearly was not the case and Ben had fallen victim to this as well. For example, as an athlete Ben is naturally very powerful in certain movements, which is a blessing and a curse in terms of activation. In pressing exercises his shoulders overcompensate for his chest and his triceps, but their dominance also made it more difficult to get into positions of flexion to maximally activate the biceps.  Another issue that Ben was dealing with was in regards to his lower back and the incredible development of his legs  increasing tension through his pelvis and lower lumbar resulting in pain when having to load his back with enough weight to make it grow.  So logistically we had a couple of things that needed to be addressed; one we needed to find a away to increse his volume without taking away from weaker body parts by making the training session so long he is shot at the 70min mark regardless of the muscle groupings. Two, we needed to address the soft tissue issues that he was overcoming that had decreased range of motion and muscle activation and three we needed to pack on some fucking muscle… lots of it!

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 4.11.31 PM-1Ben had already been toying with the idea of twice daily training, but it was not until we met in Rhode Island at the Poliquin Performance  that it was agreed the only way to reach his goals would be to split his sessions, increase his therapy and utilize the whole day to train.  Ben’s first goal was to address these issue regarding back pain and poor mobility and my soft tissue work was only attacking it from one angle and even though there was improvment he enlisted the Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) as outlined by his therapist Greg Roskopf in Colorado, and with in a handful of treatments he was pain free and moving through ranges that he felt were lost.

When we set up a twice daily system that was not going to represent an increase in training intensity for a short period of time but rather a long term system of training we needed to make sure that it was balanced and following some basic rules of exercise science. Ben’s sessions would be broken up into AM intensity driven sessions and PM Volume driven sessions, each lasting roughly 45-70min and they would either have a single muscle group emphasis for the day or a pairing emphasis depending on the cycle of training that we were in.

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 4.19.00 PMThe Goal of the AM session is to increase central nervous system response to training leading to what we can only assume will be a neural potentiation for the true hypertrophy session that would be happening 4-6 hours later in the day.

AM Parameters


Workout Length 45-70min


Exercise Selection: Compound Movements i.e. Bench, Rows, Deads, Squats, Push Press etc.


Exercise Rep Ranges: 3-6 repetitions


Exercise Set Range: 4-8 sets


Exercise Tempo Range: Total time under tension per set 15-30seconds


Exercise Intensifiers (Hypertrophy Max Series): None all sets are straight sets.


Exercise Goal: Increase Strength, Increase Type IIa IIb potential, Stimulate CNS.


Exercises Variation Per Session: 2-4 variations.


Nutritional Goal Pre: Stimulate Dopamine and Acytle-L-Choline


Nutritional Goal During: Maintain Alkaline environment to maintain rate of contraction of type IIa-b fibers. Prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue.


Nutritional Goal After: Decrease inflammation, increase protein synthesis, decrease catabolism, and increase parasympathetic state.


The Goal of the PM session, is to train the muscle group or groups that were stimulated during the AM session with increase volume and variation with the intend to create as much mechanical damage as possible to promote and signal the chemical processes that occur to make muscles grow. This is the session where stress and trauma trump science, its time to grind and grow.


PM Parameters


Workout Length 60-80min


Exercise Selection: Variation of Compound and Isolation Movements


Exercise Repetition Range: 8-25 reps


Exercise Set Range: 2-4


Exercise Tempo Range: Total time under tension per set 45-70seconds


Exercise Intensifiers (Hypertrophy Max Series™): giant sets, compound sets, and drop sets, extended sets, assisted concentric, extended eccentrics and whatever else we could possibly imagine to ensure maximal stimulation.

Exercise Goal: Facilitate hypertrophy of Type I, II, IIAB fibers

Exercises Variation Per Session: 4-8 exercises

Nutritional Goal Pre: Stimulate vasodilation, ATP, AMP, neuro-drive (none Caffeine)

Nutritional Goal During: Increase acidic environment promoting lactate production and muscle growth signaling.

Nutritional Goal After: Decrease inflammation, increase protein synthesis, increase Insulin as a nutrient transport mechanism and return system to alkaline environment.

Lets take a look at the Eight Weeks of training leading up to Arnold Classic 2012.


Phase 1

Day One

Bisceps AM            (trauma unit)


A1.           Reverse Scott Curls              5 sets                        8,8,8,6,6                                   rest 20sec

A2.           Supinated Scott Curls        5 sets                        10-12                       rest 100sec


B1.           Hammer Curls                       5 sets                        8,6,6,6,5                                   rest 20sec

B2.           Incline Supinated Curls   5 sets                        10-12                       rest 100sec


C1.           Hammer Rope Curls           5 sets                        7,6,5,5,5                                   rest 20sec

C2.           Supinated cable curls        5 sets                        10-12                       rest 100sec


Day One

Chest PM

A.              Flat Dumbbell Press                              5 sets

– 6 reps drop 5lbs, 10sec rest           6reps drop 5lbs,                   10sec rest

– 6reps drop 10lbs, 10sec rest         6reps,  rest 120sec


B1            Incline Flies                                              5 sets

– 15 reps drop 5lbs 10sec rest                                             15reps rest 30sec

B2            Flat Flies                                                     5 sets

– 10 reps drop 5 lbs 10sec rest        10reps rest 60sec


C.              Incline Hammer Press       5 sets      15-20reps hold squeeze every fifth rep for 5sec


D1            Straight Arm Pec Dec          3sets       12-15reps             30XO tempo

D2            Push-ups                                  3sets       20-30reps


Day Two

Legs AM

A. Deadlifts                                                6                                 10,6,6,5,5,10                                           rest 120sec

B1. Dumbbell RDL’s                              5                                 8-10reps                                                    rest 30sec

B2. Leg Curl seated                               5                                 8-10reps                                                    rest 100sec


C1. Lying leg Curls                                4                                 6-8reps                                                       rest 30sec

C2. Seated Calve Raise                        4                                 12-15reps                                                 rest 75sec


Day Two

Legs PM


A. Heels Elevated Back Squats         8                                 12,12,10,10,6,6,6,6                            rest 120sec


B. Walking Lunges                                 5                                 24-28 steps                                               rest 100sec


C. Hack Squat Machine                        5                                 20,20,15,15,15                                      rest 120sec


D. Leg Extensions                                   5                                 Failure                                                         rest 90sec


Day Three



A. Bent over barbell Rows                  6                                 6-8reps                                     rest 100sec

B. T-bar rows                                            6                                 12,8,8,5,5,8                            rest 100sec

C. Seated Low Rows narrow             6                                 6-8reps                                                       rest 100sec

D. Narrow Pull downs                         6                                 6-8reps                                     rest 100sec


Day Three

Triceps PM


A1.Iso hold ½ way Dip Holds          5                                 20sec hold                               rest 10sec

A2.Standing Rope Pushdowns       5                                 12-15reps                               rest 60sec


B1. Incline Triceps Extensions        5                                 8-10reps                                  rest 10sec

B2. Decline Rope Triceps Ext           5                                 12-15reps                               rest 60sec


C1. Flat dumbbell Extensions          5                                 6-8reps                                     rest 10sec

C2. Rope French Press                         5                                 12-15reps                               rest 60sec


Day Four

Chest AM


A1.  Flat Bench (even Smith)            5                                 5-8reps                                     rest 60sec

A2.  Straight bar curl                             5                                 6-10reps                                  rest 60sec

B1.  Decline Hammer press               5                                 5-8reps                                     rest 60sec

B2.   Incline Dumbbell curl                5                                 6-10reps                                  rest 60sec


Biceps PM


A1.  Standing Curls                               5                                 8reps                                          rest 15sec

A2.  Preacher Curls                               5                                 10reps                                       rest 15sec

A3.  Incline DB Curls                            5                                 12reps                                       rest 15sec

A4.  Machine Preacher                        5                                 failure                                        rest 15sec

A5. Reverse Cable Curls                      5                                 failure                                        rest 180sec


Day Five


Shoulders AM


A. Seated Military Press                      5                                 8-12reps                                                    rest 60

B. Side Lateral Raises                           5 (5lb drops sets of 5 reps, at least 5 drop per set) rest 100sec

C. Reverse Fly Machine                       5                                 12-15reps                                                 rest 60

D. Dumbbell Shrugs                              5 (5lb drops sets of 5 reps, at least 5 drop per set) rest 100sec


BACK & Hamstrings PM


A Rack Deads (1” above knee)         6                                 8,8,8,6,6,12                                              rest 100sec

B 45 Hypers Legs ext. rotated          6                                 10-12                                                           rest 60sec

C Seated hamstrings curls                 6                                 15-20 (three drops per set)             rest 60sec


D Barbell Shrugs                                                      3                                 20’s (drop 15lbs for 5 drops….)



Calves AM


(this is one?  ha ha…no clue what to even say about them)


Phase 2


Day One

Chest and Biceps

AM Session


A               Incline Bench Press 2 positions

Narrow grip                            3sets                         6-8 reps                                    60sec rest

Wide Grip                                3sets                         8-10 reps               60sec rest


B               Supinated Chins                                                      6sets                         4-6reps                   75sec rest

C               Dips                                                              5sets                         8-12reps                100sec

D               Preacher Reverse Curls                      5sets                         8,8,7,7,6                                   75sec


Day One

Chest and Biceps

Pm Session (giant multi angle sets)


A1 Incline 1 ¼ DB Presses                                  4sets                         6-8reps                   30sec

A2 Flat DBP from neutral to Internal             4sets                         8-10reps                45sec

A3 Decline dumbbell press                                 4sets                         10-12reps             60sec

A4 Cable Cross Overs                                             4                                 12-15reps             180sec


B1 Standing Hammer Curls                                4                                 6-8reps                   30sec

B2 30 degree incline supinated curl             4                                 8-10reps                45sec

B3 45 degree incline supinated curl             4                                 9-11reps                60sec

B4 60 degree incline supinated curl             4                                 10-12reps             180sec


Day Two


AM Session


A               Back Squats                                               6                  180sec  30X0


B               Step-ups (30cm)                                                      5               8-10per leg           90sec    20X0


C               Dumbbell Split Squats                         5               6-8per leg              90sec    30X0


Day Two


PM Session


A.              Leg Press 2 positions

Narrow  5               20,15,12,10,10                    90sec

Wide       3               12,10,8                                     90sec

B               RDL’s                                                            5               8-12                                            90sec

C               Lying Leg Curls                                       5               6 (4 drops per set)              90sec

D               walking lunges                                       5               30 steps                                                      90sec

E               Leg Extensions                                        5               10 (Drops to failure)          90sec

Day Three

Back and Triceps

AM Session


A               Omni Position Pulldowns

Wide                                           3               8-12                                            90sec

Supinated Med.                    2               6-10                                            90sec

Medium Pronated               2               5-9                                               90sec


B               Seated Low Row neutral grip          5               6-8 (1 sec hold on concentric) 90sec


C               Seated 45°   Triceps Rack Press      6               8,7,6,6,5,12                            90sec


D               Incline Skull Crushers                         6               8-12                                            90sec


Day Three

Back and Triceps

PM Session


Mechanical destructions sets


A               Eccentric Wide Chin                             6               2reps (25 sec lower)          Rest 10sec

A1.           Wide Grip Pulldowns                          6               12-15reps                               Rest 120sec


B               Dumbbell Rows Drop Sets                 6               5 (6 drops)                              Rest 60


C               Seated low row reverse wide          3               15-20reps                               Rest 60


A1            Eccentric Dips                                          6               2reps (25 sec lower)          10sec

A2            Overhead Rope Extensions              6               12-15 rep                                120sec


B1            Decline Skull Crushers                       6               3reps (15sec lower)           10sec

B2            Rope Pushdowns                                   6               12-15 reps                      120sec


Day Four

Shoulders and Traps



A               Standing Military Press to the front                6 sets      6,6,5,5,4,4 reps   120sec


C               Bent over wide grip barbell rows                    6 sets      6,6,5,5,8,8 reps   120sec


B               Barbell Shrugs                                                           6 sets      5-8 reps                                    120sec


Day Four

Shoulders and Traps



A1            Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press                    4               8-10 reps                                 45sec

A2            Seated Side Lateral Raises                                   4               10-12 reps                              45sec

A3            Seated bent over lateral raises                          4               12-15 reps                              120sec


B1            Seated machine shrugs                                         4               8-10 reps                                 45sec

B2            Seated Reverse Fly                                                  4               10-12 reps                              45sec

B3            Seated throat rows with rope                            4               12-15 reps                              120sec


Day Five

Chest and Biceps



A1            Flat bench                                                                    5               3 reps     (50X0)                    15sec

A2            Incline Bench                                                             5               5 reps (40X0)                        15sec

A3            Incline Flys                                                                  5               7 reps (30X0)                        15 sec

A4            Cable Cross overs                                                     5               9 reps (20X0)                        120sec


B1            Reverse Preacher Curls                                        5               2 reps (50X0)                        15sec

B2            Pronated Preacher Curls                                     5               4 reps (40X0)                        15sec

B3            Standing hammer Curls                                       5               6 reps (30X0)                        15sec

B4            Cable curls                                                                   5               8 reps (20X0)                        120sec


Day Five




A1            Deadlifts                                                                       5               2 reps (50X0)                        20sec

A2            RDL’s                                                                             5               4 reps (40X0)                        20sec

A3            Lying Leg Curl                                                                5               6 reps (30X0)                        20sec

A4            Seated Leg Curls                                                           5               8 reps (20X0)                        120sec


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2 replies

  1. Hey Derek, really loved the detailed article on BPaks training leading up to the arnold. It’s great to hear honesty about how these pros really train. Out of curiousity, what was Bens split in these 8 weeks? 6 days on and 1 off? Considering that amount of volume you would think they need plenty of rest.


  1. Strength Training Library: Articles | Gregory Taper

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