Q&A With Marc McDougal - Mind And Muscle

interview chairQ&A With Marc McDougal

1. After nursing my shoulder back from an injury and postural imbalance using your advice, I’ve trained it to become as healthy as ever. Any advice for taking it to the next level? I’m looking to make both of my shoulders bigger, stronger, more stable, and basically bulletproof.

Keep a few things in mind when designing advanced programs for the shoulders:

1. Being a ball and socket joint that acts in a multiplanar fashion, the shoulder region requires more variety than muscles surrounding other joints. Not only for structural integrity, but also for strength and size.
2. When looking to satisfy multiple goals, employ multiple training techniques in each phase/week. Don’t just always train them heavy, or always train high reps, etc.
3. Compound is king. Avoid wasting time performing excessive single joint movements like lateral or front raises (especially since most trainees lack the discipline to avoid turning this into some weird hip-hop dance with dumbbells anyway).
4. Keep Frequency High. The shoulders are a relatively small muscle group compared to quads/hams/chest/lats, etc, so train them often. This works especially well when using a form of conjugated training as I’m suggesting below.
5. Train the external rotators. Just because your shoulders are healthy, doesn’t mean you can neglect these.

Here’s a sample program that should satisfy your goals:

I recommend training shoulders as part of a vertical push/vertical pull day, avoid any chest work on this day.

Workout 1 (Monday):

Warm Up:
Seated Barbell Military Press
1×6 @ 50% of weight you plan to use
1×4 @ 70% of weight you plan to use
1×2 @ 90% “ “
A1) Seated Barbell Military Press: 4×6
A2) Choose a vertical pulling movement and alternate (pull ups/pull downs, etc): 4×6
B) Seated DB External Rotation: 2×8 each

Seated DB Externatl Rotation Start

Seated DB External Rotation Finish

Workout 2 (Wednesday)

A1) Seated Dumbbell Military Press (1+1/3 reps*) 3×10
A2) Vertical Pull movement 3×12-15
*Lower the dumbbells to just barely above the shoulder, pause. Raise the db’s up 1/3 of the way (knuckles should be just above the head), pause. Lower the db’s back down to just above the shoulder, pause. Raise the db’s up all the way to the top. This is 1 rep.
B) Standing DB External Rotation: 2×12 each

Standing DB Externatl Rotation Start

Standing DB External Rotation Finish

Workout 3 (Friday)

Warm Up:
Barbell Push Press
1×6 @ 50% of weight you plan to use
1×4 @ 70% “ “
1×3 @ 80% “ “
1×2 @ 90% “ “
A1) Barbell Push Press: 6×4
A2) Vertical Pull movement: 6×4
Seated DB External Rotation: 2×15 each

Workout 4 (Monday):

A1) Dumbbell Bent Press: 2×12 each
A2) Vert Pull: 2×12-15
B1) Standing DB Lateral Raise: 1×15 (keep elbows bent to 10 degrees, angle arms slightly in front of the body. Do NOT bounce at the knees.)
B2) Standing Cable External Rotation: 2×8 each

Standing Cable Externatl Rotation Start

Standing Cable External Rotation Finish

Repeat these 4 workouts for a total of 4 phases (16 workouts), gradually increasing load each time.

2. I suck at Deadlifts. My form always breaks, and I’m not going to be a powerlifter, I just want to look good. Do I still need to do them?

Simply put, yes! I rarely write a program without deadlifts, whether I’m training a mother of 3 or a competitive snowboarder. If you suck at them, fix the problem, as it’s probably indicative of a larger problem. No other exercise duplicates the post chain overload commanded by the Deadlift.

That said, many people lack the flexibility and or motor control to perform a proper full range of motion deadlift, so here’s how to incorporate them into your program and start reaping the benefits:

Incorporate this at the beginning of your current leg day, or whenever you train posterior chain:

Week 1 (Keep loads submaximal to accentuate high frequency)

The unilateral hyperextension is the same as a regular hyper, but with one leg hanging over the top of the pad. Perform both sides, look for a weaker side and always perform this side first. This helps to eliminate single side imbalances that can wreck a proper deadlift.

Workout 1
A) Hip Pull Thru 2×12
B) Unilateral Hyperextension 1×12

Workout 2
A) Hip Pull Thru 3×10
B) Unilateral Hyperextension 1×12

Workout 3
A)Hip Pull Thru 3×8
B)Unilateral Hyperextension 1×12

*Stretch Hip Flexors between all sets

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Sprint Hip Flexor Stretch

Week 2

“Rack” refers to pins/blocks/stacked up 45lb plates, etc.
Set impedance about 3 inches below the bottom of the patella, under each side.

Workout 1
A)Rack Deadlift 2×12

Workout 2
A)Rack Deadlifit 3×10

Workout 3
A)Rack Deadlift 3×8
*Stretch Hip Flexors between all sets

Week 3

Set impedance about halfway down the shin, 6-9 inches below bottom of patella, depending on height.

Workout 1
A)Rack Deadlift 2×12

Workout 2
A)Rack Deadlift 3×10

Workout 3:
A)Rack Deadlift 3×8
*Stretch Hip Flexors between all sets

Week 4

Deadlift off a single 45lb plate impedance under each end of the bar.

Workout 1
A)Deadlift 3×10

Workout 2
A)Deadlift: 4×8

Workout 3:
A)Deadlift: 6×4
*Stretch Hip Flexors between all sets

After this, you’re ready to start deadlifting off the ground.

3. I have a hard time gaining muscle, even though I gain strength fairly well. I eat as much as I can, and I take quite a bit of stimulants before workouts to get geared up, and train as hard as I can. What gives?

    • Lay off the stimulants, especially before the workout. Stimulants raise heart rate, which will drive your metabolism into more of a fuel burning mode, rather than a muscle building one, and decrease insulin sensitivity at the muscle cell. Obviously, things that are stepping in the way of adding new muscle to your frame. No stimulants within 6 hours before workout.
    • Right before and during workout sip on a BCAA + carbohydrate shake (I have my clients take ICE from Xtreme Formulations and a combo of half of Avant Labs SuperCarb + half dextrose; for a total of 2:1 Carbs:BCAA’s).
    • Extend rest periods between sets, and focus on recovery. Eat a huge carb + protein meal an hour after your post workout shake (a repeat of your during workout shake), and add an extra 30-60minutes of sleep at night.
    • Take a digestive enzyme such as Omega Zyme made by Garden of Life before your workout, and again before your 2nd post workout meal. Often times, those with fast metabolisms lack crucial digestive enzymes to utilize the nutrients.

4. Anything I should be taking for insulin sensitivity besides fish oil? You always stress the importance of insulin sensitivity, and I want to be maximizing this side of my health.

Too many people focus on insulin manipulation for the purposes of fat loss, and forget about managing this hormone for health purposes. Chronic insulin elevation and insulin resistance are the root of countless problems that result in the deterioration of the body and the promotion of disease.

The Groundwork:

      • Exercise frequently
      • Take a high quality fish oil daily
      • Avoid excess carbohydrates, especially processed and rapidly digested sources
      • Avoid hydrogenated oils and fried foods

Once these habits are accounted for, there are some other options worth looking into as well on the supplement front.

Alpha Lipoic Acid is an obvious choice. While some may disagree, the evidence points to taking a stabilized version of the “R” isomer, such as K-R-ALA or Na-R-ALA. Taking this a couple of times per day before meals will go a long way for health and longevity.

Aside from that, recent research shows some potential for a couple of new compounds called tangeretin and nobiletin to promote insulin sensitivity.

Tangeretin and nobiletin are flavones found in citrus peel. These compounds are turning out to be quite interesting and potentially showing large promise in the health and longevity market.

In hampsters, both compounds have shown to reverse insulin resistance, lower inflammatory cytokines (TNF-a and Interleukin-6), and lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides [1].

Aside from the major combined effects on insulin sensitivity, these compounds have their own individual characteristics worth noting…

Tangeretin in particular appears to lower inflammation through COX-2 inhibition, the same way pharmaceuticals such as Celebrex do so [2]. With inflammation being the root of almost all health problems, this is not to be overlooked.

Nobiletin may also have the ability to be neuroprotective, and even improve impaired memory due to neurodegenerative disorders [3].

Keep an eye out for these compounds, they could prove to be helpful in the quest for losing body fat while improving overall health through blood lipid manipulation and anti-inflammatory avenues.


1. Li RW, Theriault AG, Au K., et al. Citrus polymethoxylated flavones improve lipid and glucose homeostasis and modulate adipocytokines in fructose-induced insulin resistant hampsters. Life Sci. 2006 June 20; 79(4):365-73

2. Chen KH, Weng MS, Lin JK. Biochem Pharmacol. 2006 Sep 22; [Epub ahead of print] Tangeretin suppresses IL-1beta-induced cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 expression through inhibition of p38 MAPK, JNK, and AKT activation in human lung carcinoma cells. Nagase H, Omae N, Omori A, Nakagawasai O, Tadano T, Yokosuka A, Sashida Y, Mimaki Y, Yamakuni T, Ohizumi Y.

3. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Dec 2;337(4):1330-6. Epub 2005 Oct 10. Nobiletin and its related flavonoids with CRE-dependent transcription-stimulating and neuritegenic activities.

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