My name is Nick Nilsson, creator and writer for most of the information you'll find on Fitstep.com.
If you're reading this, it means you want to know more about me...what I stand for, what I believe and where I'm coming from with respect to health, fitness, muscle, training, fat-loss....the whole deal.
I'm writing all this not because I like to talk about myself...I'm writing this because when I talk about weight training, muscle-building and fat loss, I'm asking you to TRUST me. If you put the information I share with you to work, it's because on same level, you DO trust what I'm telling you.
And in that respect, I think it's important for YOU to know where I'm coming from.
Your trust means a lot to me and I think this page will give you a better idea of what I'm all about and how I can help YOU achieve YOUR physique and health goals.
Let's get started...
My "Origin" Story...
I was very athletic as a kid...I did a lot of sports like soccer, swimming, speedskating, running, basketball, you name it. So physical fitness has pretty much always been a part of my life.
My father was a tremendous role model in that - he was always training and striving for peak fitness. Even now, at 78 years old, he's in better shape than the VAST majority of people I know (you can check out his site and his fitness challenges here).
I got started into weight training when I was 16 years old, doing the standard "bicep curls, push-ups and crunches" thing because I didn't really know any better.
At the time, I was completely into endurance sports...I could literally bust out a triathlon without even training for it. Here's a few pics of how skinny I was at 17, and participating in a triathlon.
So at that point, I decided I wanted to focus on building some muscle and "getting big". I didn't want to be a skinny endurance athlete anymore. I wanted to be huge and ripped, like in the Cybergenics commercials (if you've been around awhile, you know what I'm talking about!).
That was 1991...
And thus began my transformation into the "Mad Scientist of Muscle"...
(and please believe me when I say "mad scientist", I don't look at myself as a character or anything like that..."mad scientist" just happens to perfectly describe my personality when I get into the gym...slightly insane, creative and always thinking of new ways to do things).
So this decision to get big happened just as I was heading off to my first year of university.
And luckily (ish) for me, I also discovered the calorie-loaded goodness of cafeteria food.
I ended up gaining 75 POUNDS of bodyweight my first year of university.
Now, you'll notice that I said "bodyweight" and not muscle...that's yet one of the other joys of cafeteria food. I gained a TON of muscle but I also gained a TON of fat along with it. I took my bodyweight from 145 lbs all the way up to 217 lbs. It was a pretty eye-opening transformation, fat-gain notwithstanding.
I went from ectomorph to beast...
The first 4 months of this weight gain, I trained without much of a plan. I didn't know a lot about training yet, so I was following a program that somebody at some gym had given me months before.
The thing for me is, at that stage of my training career and at 17/18 years old and eating a TON of calories a day and not doing any cardio, I could gain on pretty much anything. I was literally piling it on.
The Smartest Thing I Ever Did...
The best smartest thing I did after that first 4 months was something that has literally shaped my entire perspective about how effective training should be structured...I ordered the "Bulgarian Burst" training program from Leo Costa. If you're not familiar with this program, the main idea is that in order to make progress you have to force your body to overtrain then back off and let it recover (there are a few other tenets, including very high frequency training, that I took away from it, but that's the main one).
In strength circles, this cycling is known as Accumulation (which is the overload phase) and Intensification (which is the back-off phase)...and it WORKS.
It works so well that I still base all my training programs on this concept. Push your body then back off.
Now, in that second 4 month block of training, I decided to go all-in. I started training 6 days a week, twice a day, and I increased my caloric intake even MORE (I was up to 8500 calories a day at one point).
I was piling on the mass and I have to say, even though I did gain fat with that muscle, I think it really helped me develop a better base and pretty much a new setpoint for muscle. It's tough for ectomorphs (of which I am one) to really build a lot of muscle.
It helped tremendously that I had a MASSIVE appetite and a willingness to push myself to the limit.
So after gaining 75 lbs, I proceeded to screw it all up by trying to lose the extra fat while not knowing what I was doing. I didn't eat nearly enough (calories or protein) to maintain my muscle mass, I started doing long-distance running (bad idea when you're 217 lbs and not in great cardio shape) and I lost a lot of muscle mass. I only started getting it back when I started seriously supplementing with protein and improving my eating.
How the Science Behind "The Mad Scientist" Began...
Following this messing up of all the hard work I put into building muscle, I really started delving into the science of training and decided to go into Physical Education as a degree.
This degree (I actually have a second degree in Psychology as well) covered anatomy, biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology, all at an advanced level.
The insanity that comes when I create exercises and training techniques is all based on this SCIENTIFIC background...yep, I don't just create things out of thin air. I actually look at things from this academic perspective first...then I take that base of knowledge and apply the insanity to it.
During my university years, I also got certified as a personal trainer and began working with some of the guys I was training with in the school gym.
Then, after 5 years of schooling, I completed my degrees and went to work...as a maintenance man at the local rec center...driving a lawn tractor, digging trenches and picking rocks off of softball fields.
Yeah, it wasn't exactly in my specialty area but it was a job. It also made me realize that I didn't want to make a career out of it, so I applied to work on cruise ships, eventually got a job on one and went off to sea.
How the Madness Behind "The Mad Scientist" Began...
Here's where things got interesting and where I REALLY had to push my ability to innovate to the limit...
The crew gym on the ship had very limited equipment...a pull-up/dip stand, a set of do-it-yourself dumbbells and a standard barbell with a few hundred pounds of weights. The ceiling was low, the floor was at an angle and I would often train when the ship was at sea and rocking all over the place.
In order to get a good workout, I had to really stretch my imagination and during that time of very limited (and kind of crappy, to be quite honest) equipment, I came up with some pretty cool stuff.
That only continued when I transferred to the next ship I was on, which only had a single Universal multi-station gym for equipment...no free weights. Let me tell you, by the time I left that ship, I could do a total-body workout (with multiple exercises for each bodypart ) using just the bench press station.
Now granted, there were times when the ship was in port that I could go to a regular gym and train with "normal' equipment. But those times were fairly rare (a couple of times a month, at most), so I was really forced to stretch my imagination and it really shaped how I approach training to this very day...
I NEVER look at a piece of equipment as something to be used only for what it is intended for. The first thing I do is try and think of as many ways as I can to use it to do OTHER things.
Here's an example of me doing a "front squat" movement using the ends of two barbells set in the power rack
It's this creative drive that's really spurred me to create some incredibly powerful stuff...not only with machines, but also with simple equipment like dumbbells and barbells.
And I ALWAYS make sure that I'm doing things different not just for the sake of doing things different...I do it for the sake of doing things BETTER.
My goal is not to just see how many different ways I can do a dumbbell curl so I can say that I invented 10 dumbbell curl exercises. I want each variation to have a PURPOSE and a REASON behind it.
And on a side note do have to say, every time I've thought that I've invented an exercise, invariably somebody tells me how popular it was back in the 50's, so I never actually SAY that I've invented any exercises any more (even though it's very possible that I HAVE).
How I Got Started As A Fitness and Bodybuilding Author
After a few years on the ships, I was coming up with so much good stuff, I decided I needed to start writing this stuff down...there was just no way I could remember it all. And before I knew it, I had filled pages and pages of notebooks with exercises, training techniques and program designs. I still have these notebooks to this very day and I'm always looking back through pages...sometimes in disbelief.
Well, skip ahead a few years, after meeting my wife, Kelly, and moving down the States (I'm originally from Canada), I decided to start up an Internet-based business doing online personal training.
When that proved to be difficult to make work (I made $7 in my first 9 months of business!), I decided to switch to publishing ebooks...and that's when I wrote and put out my first ebook "The Best Exercises You've Never Heard Of" in 2002.
The interesting thing is, I look back on that book and I think the exercises in it are pretty tame compared to what I do nowadays!
The rest is history! I've now got a number of other books and a massive membership site "Powerful Training Secrets" where I post new exercises, training techniques and programs on an almost-daily basis.
I've been published in a variety of magazines, have three books published and in bookstores (Muscle Explosion, Mad Scientist Muscle and The Best Exercises 2.0) and have my articles published on many major bodybuilding and training sites.
My Best Lifts and Some Recent Pics...
If you're curious to see how much I can lift (or have lifted in the past), here are a few of my best lifts. I've also posted a few physique pictures below.
|Flat Barbell Bench Press||350 lbs|
|Decline Barbell Bench Press||405 lbs|
|High-Rep Trap Bar Deadlifts||405 x 20, 315 x 40|
|High Rep Squats||315 lbs x 40 reps|
|Lockout Partial Squats||1200 lbs x 3 reps, 950 lbs x 150 reps|
|Incline Dumbbell Press||125 lb dumbbells x 15 reps|
|Barbell Bent-Over Rows||405 lbs x 3 reps|
|One Arm Dumbbell Rows||220 lb dumbbell x 4 reps|
|High Rep Bench Press||225 lbs x 25 reps, 135 lbs x 70 reps|
|Dumbbell Shoulder Press||105 lb dumbbells x 5 reps|
My Training Philosophies and Mission...
First and foremost, I believe training should be FUN. I don't think it should be drudgery...I think it should be something you enjoy doing, even (and especially!) when it's challenging.
It should interesting and challenging and you should look forward to it as one of the best parts of your day.
If it isn't, then you REALLY need to read more of my exercises and training techniques! I have a good time in the gym and I absolutely LOVE coming up with cool, new stuff and showing it to others to help them achieve their goals...and most importantly, to help them have fun in the gym, too.
My mission is to help you break away from the rut of conventional training and push your body and mind to the limits.
I want to help you experience that "Ah Ha" moment when you try something new and go "wow, that really does work better that way...I wonder what else I could try"...
My Thoughts and Beliefs on Various Training Methods, Nutrition and Supplements...and Other Random Stuff...
In this section, I'm going to just basically post my thoughts on a variety of topics that relate to training, fitness, fat-loss, muscle, strength and life in general. This is going to be random stuff in no particular order...just going to throw things out there as I think of them.
And if you have anything specific you'd like to ask me about, feel free to post in the comments section at the bottom of the page. I'll definitely address it!
Totally has it's place in fitness. I think a lot coaches, trainers and trainees take fitness WAY to seriously...this goes back to my overriding philosophy of having fun in the gym.
2. Low-Carb Eating
When done smartly and NOT with the whole "bacon and butter" sensationalistic slant that the media likes to take on it, low-carb eating is EXCELLENT for fat loss. In fact, if you're one of the people who does well with it, it's something I highly recommend.
I also realize full well that there are people who don't do well on it (my wife included). Eating low-carb makes them feel sick and tired. In that case, low-carb is not a good solution for fat loss.
Is usually WAY overcomplicated by people, leading them to believe it's some hard-to-understand magical thing. It's not. Just don't eat crap and generally speaking, you'll be fine. Eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, staying away from processed stuff.
They can be very useful when used properly, appropriately and for the right purpose. A supplement should never set out to be taken as the driver of your results. For example, don't take a fat burner thinking that you can still eat whatever you want and still lose weight. Won't happen.
And on that note...
Generally over-hyped. There are a few good ones that have some research behind them but you still need to put in the work and drop the calories. They may give you an extra 5 to 10% in terms of results over time. They won't, however, burn all the fat for you.
6. Protein Powder
This is a good "core" supplement that most people should be using. It's not necessary but it can be very helpful. I used to be of the opinion that even just a plain old decent protein would be fine. Not anymore. I actually think that you should go with a very high quality protein powder supplement, if you're going to take one. You'll get greater benefits.
Make sure and get plenty of protein from food, too, and don't rely on protein powders completely for your protein intake.
I find there are two extremes...people who think they can't recover from any substantial workload so they chronically undertrain and never push themselves. And people who think they can recover from anything and chronically overtrain themselves. There are people in the middle as well.
The ironic thing is, all three of these approaches are correct...for a certain period of time. Going to back what I said above about accumulation and intensification, you need to first overtrain then undertrain in a cycle. The middle road is the "maintenance" type of training where you're not really pushing yourself to improve and you're in a fairly steady-state. Just make sure you leave that steady state at some point!
8. Other Trainers
I know I'm not the only trainer out there. I learn a LOT from reading through other people's programs and approaches and I think it's absolutely critical to do so. You have to keep learning or you're just dying slowly. I think just about everybody has something valuable to teach me...even if it's just as a cautionary tale.
I think strength should be a core component of every program...even for women, children and seniors. I think EVERYBODY can benefit from increased strength. And by strength, I don't mean I need to see 80 year olds doing heavy squats. Strength is relative and building strength is always positive.
10. Flexibility and Mobility
Both are very important, especially as you get older and start to lose flexibility and mobility just in general. For me, rather than doing specific stretching after training, I prefer to utilize exercises with a strong stretch component, such as flyes for chest, or incline curls for biceps. This saves time and to me, is much more enjoyable.
Mobility is also important, especially if you have any current mobility issues. If your joints don't move properly, it's going to compromise your form and affect muscle development and muscle balance.
When I first started training, I though I was a hardgainer. Then I discovered what worked for me. I think there ARE people who fit into that type of concept, but I don't like the term "hardgainer". To me, it's self-defeating. You immediately classify yourself as someone who doesn't make good gains, so you subconsciously do everything you can to live up that label.
Do some people have a hard time gaining? Absolutely. But they shouldn't call themselves hardgainers or they will always be hardgainers.
I used to get really annoyed by people using this word, thinking it's an excuse to do light, crappy, ineffective workouts. I've since changed my thinking on that.
"Toned" is a goal that people want to achieve because that's how they know to describe it. I know what they mean when they say it. It's my job to help them acheive that, not get annoyed at them for using a specific word.
Want to get toned? We can do that!
I've never lacked for motivation to train because of how much fun I have in the gym and how much I enjoy challenging myself. And honestly, I find one of the main reasons people lack for motivation is that they're just not enjoying training. If you really want to be able to stick to it long-term, you need to find some aspect of it that you enjoy and do a lot of that. And try some of my insane exercises!
Not getting good results while working hard is another reason motivation can be tough. In that case, you should definitely experiment with a variety of different programs and approaches. I've got some good programs, but they're not always the best for everybody. Once you find out what works for you, motivation won't be so hard.
And if motivation still doesn't happen but you still want to be in good shape, then you'll just have to suck it up and treat training like a job.
14. Commercial Gyms and Home Gyms
I've trained in a lot of commercial gyms and some are good, some are great and some are terrible. I've seen the gamut. If training at home is not an option due to space, money, or motivation, then do yourself a favor and find a good gym that you enjoy going to.
And if your town or area doesn't have a good gym, you may need to try and find some home-gym options that work for you.
I've been training in my basement for more than 17 years now and I just love it. Motivation is never an issue for me and enjoy having the equipment all to myself. I do know that home gym training is not for everybody, though.
15. Training to Failure
It has it's place...and that place is actually fairly rare. I generally recommend staying a little short of failure...a rep or two, if you're training for strength. You can get closer if you're training for muscle mass (and intensity techniques to add more tension onto a muscle are the only times I DO recommend going to failure).
Often maligned and misunderstood, partials are one of my favorite techniques for strengthening connective tissue and improving nervous system activation. Many people see partial-range training as cheating, not realizing that partial training is simply a tool in the toolbox, to be used for a specific purpose...not just for trying to look cool and put a lot of weight on the bar to move it 2 inches.
Yes, that part is fun (and awesome when you load 10 plates on the squat bar), but it's NOT the main purpose of doing partial training.
Everybody hits them and there are two main approaches you can take to get past them. First, you can back off and let your body recover. Plateaus can be caused by overtraining. Second, you can pile on the volume for a very short period of time (when the plateau is caused by undertraining).
18. Muscle Building
Most guys who want to build muscle run into a big issue at some or other...they want to build muscle but still keep their six-pack. Here's the thing...it's EXTREMELY tough to build substantial muscle while keeping lean. It can be done, but most people don't have the training and nutritional knowledge to do it.
19. Fat Loss
My approach with fat loss is to get it over with as quickly as possible. I don't like long periods of eating slightly less and trying to keep ahead of the metabolic slowdown. I'd rather cut the calories sharply while my metabolism is fast, then constantly switch up my nutrient intake between low-carb and low-fat, then train myself to the point of overtraining, then back off and let my body recover and repair (hint: this is the approach I take in my Metabolic Surge -Rapid Fat Loss program).
I've never personally taken steroids in my life (though I have to say, when I gained 75 lbs in my first year of training, a lot of people in my hometown though I did!). I never have and I never will.
As far as other people taking them, I have no problem with that. Steroids can have some nasty side effects but they're not generally as "deadly" as many people think they are.
Do I think a 17 year old kid should use them to get big for football? Hell no. Not only is that a sensitive age for a growing kids hormonal system, at that age, most boys are awash in testosterone anyway. All they need to do is eat a lot and train right and they'll mass up fast.
21. Am I a Guru?
I am not a guru... I'm just further along the same path than some and not as far along the path as others.
I'm reaching back with one hand to help some catch up to me and reaching forward with the other to accept help from those ahead.
And I'm lifting heavy stuff along the way...
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