Glen, many thanks for taking the time to do this interview for Natural Muscle. First off, can you tell our readers about your academic background with regards to sports science?
Hello Jon. Academically, I have studied sports science right the way through from finishing school until completing my postgraduate degree a few years ago. Initially, I went to college and did a basic BTEC in sports science whilst also doing a few vocational qualifications. When I moved to London I started my undergraduate degree in sports science and nutrition, whilst working part time as gym instructor, and after that completed my masters degree in human nutrition focusing upon sports nutrition.
But in all honesty, most of those courses didnít teach me much that I couldnít learn from just picking up a textbook for an hour a day, but they did teach me skills on researching and how to be more analytical in my thought process. I think thereís a lot of good sounding theoretical stuff out there, that in the real world turns out to be hogwash.
So Glen, how old are you now, and what do you do for a living?
I turned thirty last year  and work full time as a sales and retention manager for a council leisure centre in London. I have been with the company over nine years and have done quite a few different roles. Outside of this I do some tutoring and a bit of personal training, but I am very picky about clients.
You're quite a well-published author, with many of your articles appearing on mainstream bodybuilding sites. I guess it's fair to say that writing is a pastime of yours?
I love writing. Itís a great form of communication, as you get to spread your ideas and thoughts to so many people. It's weird though, as English was a poor subject for me at school, as I preferred science and maths. I donít like things to be grey or murky Ė I like clear-cut answers!
One of the things about writing is that people seem to trust your word more. It's like once it's written down it's fact, which means I try to be careful in what I write. Itís a major sense of pride when you pick up a newsstand magazine like Ironman and your article is in there.
You're no armchair theoretician, either. You've got a few bodybuilding titles to back it up. Tell us about those Glen.
Well, I started competing back in 2000 on the advice of my then manager Andrew Omatajo, who competed with the ANB. I didnít place at the 2000 ANB southeast in the novice class, but the bug definitely bit.
I have competed a lot since then, and whilst I have too many second and third place trophies for my liking, I have managed to get the following titles:
ANB 2003 Welsh u75kg
ANB 2003 southeast u75kg
BNBF 2004 southern u72kg
BNBF 2004 central u72kg and overall
BNBF 2006 northern u72kg
NPA 2006 southeast u70kg and overall
BNBF 2006 best wheels at the British
BNBF 2007 central u80kg and overall
UKBFF 2007 Leicester u80kg intermediate
BNBF 2007 u72kg British champion
You're a big advocate of bodyweight training I believe. Is it really true that you can build an impressive physique with just bodyweight exercises? Cynics would argue that it's not possible.
A muscle will get stronger or bigger when the right amount of tension is placed upon it for the right period of time. Typically, most bodyweight exercises donít do this as the tension they develop is too low. If however, you understand biomechanics and alter the exercises so enough tension is developed to cause muscular fatigue in the right time period, then I donít see why it canít. Running up to my overall win at the BNBF central in 2004, I trained for the last three months only using bodyweight variations and two 10kg dumbbells.
Bodyweight training has its limitations, but for those without any choice for a few months itís a good substitute for weights, and offers some benefits that barbells donít.
So where does this theory leave barbells and dumbbells?
Still at the top of the pile, it's just about having tools in the toolbox. Free weights offer the most straightforward adjustable means of progress resistance training, but with some thought bodyweight training can match it.
We often talk about the Holy Grail of training, the optimal way to train for maximum hypertrophy. Does such a thing exist, or is it a case of the old saying "there are many ways to skin a cat"?
Personally, I donít think thereís an optimal way as it depends upon the person and their training history, environment and dare I say it Ė genetics. Often one person will try a program and not get the response they expect, but typically it's because their development, nervous system, capillary density, etc. is not ready for that type of training. A different time and place and that system may work wonders for them.
The only thing I think anyone can say for sure is that muscle is a complex organelle made up of many different parts, and no single training programme develops all these parts maximally, so different styles at different parts of the year are probably the best bet. As long as it's progressive, then a program will work to one degree or another.
You're also known for debunking the genetics argument, and stating that our physique potential lies in more controllable factors. Is this an idea that you've read elsewhere, or is it a more a conclusion from your own findings? And why is there such resistance to this idea?
Some of it's from reading and some from experience. I am probably a bit OTT when defending the nurture side of the debate, as I find people are too quick to blame genetics on why they cant develop or get as lean as the next guy. The body is such a complex machine and we have so many different stimuli every single day that I donít know how people can say their results are due to genetics. Often Ė in my opinion Ė people arenít willing to see the little things they do which over time can add up. So many studies show people overestimate the impact of exercise and underestimate the impact of diet. Considering we are still learning and donít know exactly what's optimal, we can all look at trying to improve our diet and training.
Let's say someone gets their calories right and the macronutrient breakdown matches their needs as well. Then you have the glycemic index, acid base balance, micronutrient composition and probably a ton of other stuff we donít know anything about. How many people sit down and fine tune what they do to the nth degree? Until they do, how can they know itís not what they're doing, but rather their genetics which is to blame for their lack of success?
Often, people blame genetics for a non-responding body-part, and I like to use this analogy:
Suppose you text a friend regularly and they never respond, you could presume the guy's an idiot who never responds. But how do you know he is getting the message?
Suppose you are texting the wrong number (wrong movement pattern) and someone else is getting the message (in the case of benching: the anterior delts rather than the chest).
Also suppose the person is getting the message, but cannot respond, as they donít have the ability to text back (an inability to recruit the fibers there.)
Suppose the phone company is barring him from texting back (antagonistic / reciprocal inhibition.)
Suppose he doesnít have enough credit to reply (in this case enough energy, amino acids, etc. And just because the rest of the body is getting enough, doesn't mean the weak body-part will, if there's a lack of capillarisation, etc.)
Until you look at each of the problems in turn, how do you know it's genetics, or some physical problem or action you can control?
Let me put it this way; some people turn to drugs when they say they hit their genetic ceiling. Suddenly, they start to grow again. As far as I am aware, genetics canít be altered with steroids, so all they are doing is changing their physiological environment. Something that diet, training and lifestyle could do as well.
Lastly, if you go into something with the mindset that it cant be achieved, then you're probably right, as you're doomed to failure from the start. Believing you have control plays a major part in success in my opinion.
So, what are you working on currently Glen, any new exciting fields of research?
Currently, I am writing my second book, which will be more hands-on than my Muscle Mass Mechanics e-book. This one aims to help people identify training faults and shows ways to rectify them.
Add on top of that mine and my training partner's website monstermuscle.co.uk, and my time is quite full.
Let's talk about your own training. What system do you subscribe to at the moment?
I am a big proponent of periodisation. But however I train, I always want to spend some time under heavy intense weights (>85% of max.) Whatever your goal, whether you want to increase muscular endurance, muscular size, power, etc., then maximal strength is important. I once heard an analogy that stated biomotor abilities (muscular endurance, muscular size and power) are like rungs on a rope ladder; you can train each one to raise it up, but pulling from the top raises them all, and thatís what maximal strength does.
Currently, I train on an undulating perodisation plan, where I have three different types of workout: heavy (strength training with maximal weights), moderate (bodybuilding rep ranges) and light (muscular endurance parameters of high reps low rest periods.) Depending upon what my goal is, I change the frequency of each type of session. For example, if my goal was to build muscle, then I would alternate weekly with moderate, heavy, moderate, light, and then repeat. If my goal was to increase strength, then I would go heavy, moderate, heavy, light, repeat. So my main goal is trained for fifty percent of the time, but I never let the other qualities slip.
I understand you're diabetic. How does this impact your lifestyle?
I was diagnosed diabetic at fifteen, and as such most of my adult life as has been the same. To be honest, it's hard to answer the question, as I can't remember too much difference. The structure of bodybuilding aids this, as small, regular, clean meals are the way to manage diabetes anyway. It's slightly more tricky when I diet, since if I slip up then I have to eat more to stop myself hypoing, which results in days when I eat more than I had planned.
During the off-season I notice when my blood sugars arenít being controlled as much, as I donít gain as easily because the muscles cant get the nutrients.
Are there any noticeable advantages to using insulin, given it's anabolic properties?
I have been asked this so many times. I think the benefit of insulin to non-tested athletes is its synergistic effect with growth hormone. I take enough insulin for the carbs I eat, so all I should be doing is matching what someone else's body produces naturally. I actually find I grow best during times when I have to take less insulin, as the more active I am the better my insulin sensitivity, and as such my dosage goes down but I gain more.
What are your future competitive plans? You're a pretty strong guy. Ever thought of exploring Powerlifting or even Strongman?
I aim to do a powerlifting contest at the end of February, and hope to get a 560kg total in the u82kg class. I'll aim for 200kg squat, 140kg bench and 220kg deadlift, but as long as I get 500kg total then I will be happy as it's my first attempt.
Ok, let's have a bit of fun. Let's say you can only use five exercises in the gym from now on. What five would you pick and why?
1. Squats. Total lower body exercise when you squat deep.
2. Bench press. When done correctly it's the best exercise for upper body strength and size.
3. Deadlifts. Next only to the squat in terms of how much it works, and adds plenty of strength and size to the upper back.
4. Pull-ups. Again, done right it will compliment the bench in developing all the upper body.
Personally I could leave it right there, as those four are enough in my opinion, but considering you gave me five, you could throw in either standing overhead presses or a decent ab movement like hanging leg raises, but as I said the first four would be enough.
Give us one of your full-body workouts using just bodyweight exercises. I'm sure there's a time we could all try this, maybe on holiday when there's no gym in sight!
Ok, it kind of depends on your strength level, but the following would work well for someone of good strength:
3-6 sets of 5 reps per leg. If you want to make this harder, raise your arms above your head.
TWO POINT PUSH-UPS
3-6 sets of 5 reps per arm.
FULL INVERTED PULL-UPS
3-6 sets of 5 reps. To make this harder you can either pull up so the bar touches higher on the chest, or keep your legs more in line with your body for more core work.
Some good ideas there Glen, they look pretty challenging too. Well, many thanks for sharing your time with us, and good luck in your first powerlifting comp.