My Online Interview : http://www.zyzzfit.com/frank-yang-interview
How did you get started with bodybuilding?
I started lifting weights at the age of 18 partially because I wanted to be stronger and faster for the only sport I ever played – basketball, and partially because I was weak mentally and wanted to build a physical chamber around my mind to contain it and to prevent it from spilling out all over the place in random spastic periods…which happened constantly before I started weight training.
After I slowly built up my physique and the mental and physical strengths it entailed, I became much more ‘together’ as a person, where my mind and my body didn’t always feel separated or in conflict.
Just as free will can only be possible when it is operated within a deterministic framework, a stable and hard springboard must be held constant if I want to achieve authenticity and freedom. I can’t find a better stabilizing force than the physical body itself.
Think about it : The content of the mind fleety, wiggly, and inconsistent because they are vulnerable to other people’s perceptions and opinions. But a strong and good looking physique is almost always admired and praised. I always say that if you want to troll, do it with a nice body and you can pretty much get away with it 90 percent of the time by simply lifting up your shirt and show the haters your abs. And if you think you are going crazy because you are overwhelmed with all the negative shit that you bump into in life on a daisy basis, you can always clear your head, set everything aside, go to the gym and at least hold on to your muscles!
However, I never considered myself as a bodybuilder. In fact, when I was training for strength and explosiveness, I detested it if people called me or mistaken me for a bodybuilder because I thought bodybuilders were all show and no go.
And then I freed my mind up a but and realized that just as I wasn’t interested in getting “HUGE”, not everyone was interested vertical jumping and breaking PRs- Goal settings are relative, and just “wanting to look good naked” is as legit of a goal as having a 500 pound squat if you set your mind to it and achieve your ideal aesthetics.
Bodybuilding takes just as much motivation and hard work as anything else in the athletics, where one’s understanding of the human anatomy, diet, and training itself has to be incredibly thorough if one wants to achieve his ideal physique. Besides, it’s mostly semantics anyway. It would be foolish to say that when I was trying to jump higher or to increase my leg strength and power, I wasn’t ‘bodybuilding’ at the same time.
Where does your motivation come from?
Mostly from within myself. I see the expression of the body, and what you do can with it as a convenient way to express authenticity and originality.
When I was younger, I watched and played a lot of basketball, which gave me the earliest experiences and ideas of how to inhabit a body as they established my love for athleticism in general.
I remember looking up to NBA players in dunk contests and how much I wanted to emulated their ability to jump high. Dunking a basketball at my heigh of 5’8 would be impressive, and it was certainly part of my motivation and goal during workouts.
But the drive to simply jump high enough to dunk a basketball was taken over by my weight training after I discovered that you needed to become stronger in the weight room in order to increase my speed and vertical jump. I started my long obsession with the iron game – I read virtually everything I could get my hands on about the science of strength training, and then I would try to materialize the theories and ideas I had learned by putting them into practice. This very process became my new motivation. The fact that I can materialize the intangible (ideas on paper or in the mind) and manifest them by giving them physical form that is my OWN BODY through experimentations of trail and error was fascinating to me.
This concept of having the power to imprint, carve, and make all sorts of differences to the physical world of body and objects with the stream of consciousness applies to everything I do in fitness – whether it’s getting a huge squat, sprinting faster, jumping higher, or simply looking shredded.
And because the improvements like bodybuilding and powerlifting through this process is mostly self-contained – meaning that unlike making a movie or playing in an orchestra or being in a basketball team, you don’t really need much of anything else besides your own body and will to achieve your own goals. Hell, you can be the only person on earth with nothing but endless deserts and mountains and you can still work out by doing hill sprints and pushing up in the sand.
If I needed a measuring stick, I would always carve out different versions of myself in my imagination so I can train and compete with different versions of myself – different races, height, weight, age, anatomical proportions and so on. (If this doesn’t work or isn’t enough, I can always pull out pictures and video clips of the Ronnie Colemans, the Michael Jordans, and the Ben Johnsons)
This self-motivation mindset made me enjoy physical training as ends rather than means. For the most part, I did not train to play a sport or to become an underwear model. I trained and love it for the process in and of itself. And if personal goals like a 405 pound squat, a 300 pound bench, or a 40 inch vertical jump were set and achieved, then I move on and set new goals to stay motivated as a fluid and dynamic organism constantly adapting, evolving, and becoming.
What workout routine has worked best for you?
Let’s see…I’ve been through so many different programs that I don’t even know where to start.
But 3 specific programs that stood out for me over the years were Bill Starr’s 5×5, Joe Defranco’s Westside for Skinny Bastard (Eric Cressey also had similar protocols, which I made tons of gains from), and Kelly Baggett’s personalized stuff on the Vertical Jump Bible.
For me, someone who trained specifically for explosiveness and relative strength should mostly be concerned with staying as light as possible while gaining as much strength as possible.
The analogy that I like to use is how a car functions. A light sports car equipped with a truck’s engine would go faster than a truck with the same engine. And if somebody decides to add more metal to the sports car without switching it up with a even bigger engine with more horsepower, then it would slow down.
The reason why those programs work for me is because they allow you to add strength without adding too much size. However, this is not to say that you should eat like a chicken and stay at the same bodyweight and fat% all year round. You can’t become stronger without some added muscle mass, and you can’t become more explosive without converting strength to speed.
So from my experience, the best way to gain relative strength is to recycle your weight.
Usually I start my phase with something like the 5×5 where I focus on big compound movements like the squat, deadlift, and bench to drive up my overall strength while putting a little bit of lean muscle mass. Usually I would finish the program with about a 5 pound increase.
Then I move on to the next phase of the training by tapping into my new muscles and really try to make them strong via max effort lifting for 1-3 reps. The purpose of maxing out isn’t really to build muscle mass (something I’ve already done in the previous phase), but to train the nervous system to fire on cue, and send signals to as many muscle fibers as possible so they can be recruited all at once and be contracted as fast as they can.
However, it is very taxing on the body to do a TRUE max-out work out every week (100 percent +).
So what The Skinny Bastard program calls for, and what Eric Cressey also pointed out in his articles is that the lifter should always train in waves by fluctuations. the intensity of their training sessions.
For instance, if you go on a 4 week cycle, you should alter the intensity (percentage of 1RM) in the following ‘wave’.
Week 1 – Heavy (2-3 reps @ 90-95 % of 1RM)
Week 2 – Moderately heavy (3-4 reps @ 85-90% of 1RM)
Week 3- Very heavy (1 rep max)
Week 4 – Very light (3-5 reps @ 60-70% of 1 RM).
And by the end of Week 4, you should be able to test your maxes again on the big lifts and successfully beat your previous record.
When I have increased my overall maximum strength, I will then go on an EXPLOSIVE training phase where I do a lot of speed lifts and plyometrics in order to convert the new found strength/gains to power.
Always remember to apply the fundamental formula of “Power = Strength x Speed”.
I had just taken care of the strength part, and now, to make my body more powerful and explosive, I now have to convert it into speed. And it is also during this time of the training phase that I lose some unwanted, extra weight.
Since I no longer worry about gaining size and strength in this phase of the training, but merely to preserve them, I go on an extreme high protein, moderate fat, and low carb diet. Now, unless you are already strong enough to squat 1.5 to 2 times your bodyweight, my suggestion is for you to stick with less CNS intensive plyometric exercises like regular box jumps, broad jumps, bunny hops, and skits to prevent overtraining, CNS overload, and injuries. Be patient by focusing on getting stronger before moving on to the “true” plyo exercise like the depth jumps and the depth drops.
if I had successfully kept my strength and converted them to power, I should be able to out lift, out jump, and out sprint the previous ME at the same body weight before I started the whole shebang.
Now go back to phase one and do it over again!
If you have to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?
I often have this thought where I’m either stuck in the bottom of a dry well or in prison where I only have a few pieces of equipments to work out with. So this question has already been answered in my mind!
1. Squat – This is the King of all exercises. It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight, gain muscle mass, train explosiveness, or if you just want to empty out your mind completely for a brief second out of your day, squat and its variations are the best way to go because it incorporates almost every single muscle fibers in your body. I had success with regular/below the parallel squat, ASS TO GRASS squat, speed squats, box squats, jump squats, front squats, and even pause squats. It depends on what your goal is, it helps to switch it up and try various variations to shock your system into adapting new stressors.
2. Push Press – From me, push press is the best upper body exercise because unlike the bench press where you are lying flat on your back, the push press requires much more leg drive and strength and is much more “functional”. Like the squat and deadlift, it’s a full body exercise that require the contraction of almost all the muscles on your body. But this one gives you huge shoulders and triceps. In my opinion, if you want your upper-body to thick, the triceps and the shoulders should always be the focal point. Plus, shoulders are the most important upper-body muscle groups to contribute to the power and strength inputs that are require in speed and jumping ability, and it help you learn how to move your shoulders in synchrony with your lower body.
3. Box Jump – Everyone can benefit from a little bit of reactive/plyometric work to shock your body into gear without always relying on weights. Most gym rats spend too much time on the strength end of the speed-strength continuum. It’s always a good idea to balance heavy lifting with reactive and speed work for a variety of good reasons. I pick box jump out of the thousands of speed/jumping drills variations out there because it’s not as taxing as depth jumps and drops, but it still creates enough of a ‘bounce’ and ‘shock’ within your body for the same types of benefits. I usually don’t recommend people to do depth jumps and depth drops if they can’t squat 1.5 – 2 times their body weight yet, but anybody can do box jumps of various heights. There are a few things more impressive in the fitness game than seeing somebody jumping over/on shit higher than their shoulders!
What is your diet like?
This will be a short one.
I’m not interested in the particular foods, only in the calories. Usually when I see food, instead of seeing the beautifully shaped bananas, eggs, steaks, and whatever other fancy decorations come with them that might lead you to judge the food with bias to cause you either to overeat or undereat, I usually use my mind to abstract the universal and eternal essences embedded in them – proteins, fat, and carbs with numbers of calories/grams attached to them.
When I am cutting, I go for an extreme high protein diet, low carb, and low fat (80/10/10)
When I am maintaining, I go for a high protein, low carb, and high fat diet (50/15/35)
When I am trying to gain muscles, I go for a high protein, high carb, and low fat diet (50/40/20)
Usually it comes down to a choice between the combination of fat//protein or carb/protein. Since I like my fried chicken, and opt for the fat during most occasions. If you choose to eat both carbs and fat along with protein, my suggestion is to eat carbs for breakfast, and leave the fat to supper.
What is your supplementation like?
I used to take a lot of supplements. The ONLY thing I didn’t use were steroids and growth hormones, I took anything from multi-vitamin, fish oil, creatine, caffein pills, various whey protein brands, fat burners, muscle milk, flameouts, glucosamine and chondroitin, and etc. I had good gains, but I wasn’t sure how much of it was due to placebo effects, and how much of what actually worked on what areas of my training. But slowly, overtime, I reduced the amount of supplements that I took, and I discovered that much of it is overrated and even unnecessary. In fact, I had my best strength and size gains when I was merely eating good, solid food, and took nothing more than basic whey proteins I bought from Cosco twice a day.