Layne Norton talks the talk and walks the walk. Not only is he a professional bodybuilder in the IFPA and the NGA, but he has a BS in Biochemistry, a PhD in Nutritional Sciences, owns his own training and nutrition business (BioLayne,LLC.) and is a Research and Development Consultant for Scivation. Apparently, this wasn't enough for Layne; he also holds the AAPF National Record for Raw Squat and Deadlift in the 220 pound class. Layne just turned 30 years old and this is just a fraction of what this man has accomplished so far. Layne released his first DVD, entitled Layne Norton Unleashed, in 2008. Unfortunately, around February 2008, he also suffered a pec tear. Layne now has a new DVD coming out covering his recovery and return to the competitive bodybuilding stage. He is a remarkable guy, with a remarkable story.
JEFF: Layne, I really appreciate you taking time to talk to me today. I have prefaced this interview with a brief snapshot of what you have accomplished thus far in your life. You have evolved into a shining example of what can happen when you put your head down and work hard. For those of us that are unfamiliar with you, what got you into the bodybuilding? Specifically, was there one event that set you on this path or did you just come upon bodybuilding?
LAYNE: I got picked on a lot growing up, not just the typical crap that everyone endures. I was low on the social totem pole in middle school and high school and that meant most people 'above' me did their best to make my days at school a living hell, trying to embarrass me, humiliate me, and belittle me. As a result, I had very little self-esteem and self-confidence. I took up weight lifting to try to improve my self-image and also hopefully stop people from picking on me so much. Over the years, I kept lifting because I grew to love the process and less because I was focused on what other people thought of me. Competing was just the next step for me. I have always been the kind of person who wants to push myself as far as I can when I am passionate about something, so competing in bodybuilding for me was inevitable.
JEFF: A lot of guys on the come up have pictures of their bodybuilding role model all over the place, do you have a bodybuilding role model that helped motivate or inspire you?
LAYNE: A few of them. Arnold was definitely one. I still remember reading Arnold's Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding and being in awe of the physiques. When I got into natural bodybuilding, Dave Goodin and Dr. Joe Klemczewski were people I looked up to and was fortunate enough to meet my first year in competitive bodybuilding. They were so supportive and so nice; that really set the tone for me wanting to push forward in competitive natural bodybuilding.
JEFF: On February 28th, 2008 you suffered a pec tear. You suffered, healed up and never stopped working hard through the entire rehab. You document it here: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/layne_norton_comeback_1.htm . Can you describe the first thoughts going through your head when the tear happened? Did you feel like your bodybuilding career had ended or was there never a question in your head that you would be back?
LAYNE: My thoughts were "awww f***ing s***!" I couldn't believe that I tore my pec. I heard the snap when it happened and it was truly sickening. Still, at the time I just figured it would be a setback. It wasn't until the MRI came back and I met with the surgeon that I got really scared. The surgeon told me that the tear was mostly in the muscle belly and that the tear was going to be very hard to repair. He said that there was a good chance a surgery to repair it wouldn't work. That was like a gut punch to me. But I told them that I wanted to proceed anyway because I'd rather try than not. I just remember doing my final workout the day before the surgery and trying to stay positive. I kept telling myself, "It's going to work, IT'S GOING TO WORK." Fortunately, it did.
JEFF: I'm happy to hear that it did! Did you ever come to a point where you thought that you may give up bodybuilding?
LAYNE: No, I figured that if worst came to worst I'd just step onstage with a dent in my pec and deal with it. If anything, it strengthened my resolve. Especially after reading all the comments from idiots online who were celebrating that I tore my pec. That's right, there were threads made by people who were happy that I'd torn my pec and that my bodybuilding career was 'over.' I couldn't wait to prove them wrong and shut their mouths for them.
JEFF: Someone that celebrates another person's suffering should really take a good look at themselves because that is just sickening. Chances are that they can't stand to see someone else succeeding while they stew in their dead end lives. You continued to train legs throughout your ordeal, did you find that that kept you focused on recovery and returning to the stage?
LAYNE: Definitely, my mentality was that my legs were a weak point, so I was going to use this as an opportunity to make improvements and come back even better. 4 days after my surgery I was back in the gym doing single leg extensions. After my surgery I was working out legs 3x/week. I made really good gains during the 10 weeks after my surgery recovering from my surgery by killing my legs 3x/week.
JEFF: What role did your wife and family play in your recovery?
LAYNE: Like anything, I could not have done it without Isabel. She was right alongside me, telling me that it was going to work and that I could do it. There is nothing like that kind of support.
JEFF: You're a lucky man. From all appearances, you were impossibly positive throughout the entire ordeal. What kind of advice can you give to people who have suffered muscle tears and other serious injuries?
LAYNE: First off, don't ignore the injury. As stupid as it sounds, I know so many people who just think it will go away. Get to a specialist and make sure you shop around for a good one in your insurance network. Try to find someone who has experience dealing with athletes. Having a great surgeon made a huge difference in my recovery.
JEFF: I'm happy to see that you made it out of your ordeal a better person than when you went in. What is your stance on performance-enhancing drugs in bodybuilding?
LAYNE: My stance is they are a choice. I don't look down upon anyone who chooses to use them, that is their choice. My choice has been to not use them and hope that people respect that decision. I am always trying to push myself to be the best that I can be. I have chosen to do that in the drug tested organizations, I'm not saying that makes me any better than anyone else, it's just my choice. I think that in bodybuilding there are tested and non-tested organizations so everyone has a choice. I respect everyone's choice so long as they follow the guidelines for their organization. If you cheat by using in a natural show, you truly are a piece of shit because you have the choice to do a non-tested show.
JEFF: I believe most natural guys would agree with you on that topic, I definitely do. How do you deal with people that compare you to enhanced athletes? Does the comparison ever bother you and have you ever considered using?
LAYNE: I think it's pretty foolish. It is two different sports. Trying to say how an untested athlete would do if they were drug free or vice versa is foolish, it's impossible to know.
JEFF: How did turning pro changed your overall mind set? Did something click in your head that told you that things just got serious?
LAYNE: I've always been serious and a hard worker. But when I won my pro card, I realized that I could do every single thing right and still never win another show. That really made me realize how ridiculously hard I had to work if I wanted to have a shot.
JEFF: Has this shift in your bodybuilding mentality manifested itself in your personal life as well? Are you finding yourself increasingly competitive in business and academic pursuits?
LAYNE: I've always been competitive, but mostly with myself. I've always tried to test myself and push myself to be better than I was before. I knew that if I did that, eventually I was going to do well against other people. I think it's too dangerous to get fixated on other people and what they are doing because it can be discouraging or unfocus your energy in the wrong places.
JEFF: If you had to highlight three things that you have learned through your research or the research of others that apply directly to the fundamental aspects of bodybuilding nutrition; briefly, what would they be?
LAYNE: I guess that would be the following:
1) Anyone who says the words 'always', 'never', 'best', 'worst', or any other
superlatives or black and white terms when describing metabolism or physiology most likely has no idea what they are talking about.
2) Most bodybuilders eat way too frequently.
3) Most normal people under consume protein and most bodybuilders over consume protein.
JEFF: How do you change your supplementation protocol during the off season vs. contest prep?
LAYNE: The only thing that changes is that I'll add yohimbine on occasion during prep and also use HMB when dieting. Other than that, it doesn't change.
JEFF: What kind of training split are you using right now?
LAYNE: It changes a lot depending upon what my specific goals are at the time, but I'm always following some form of periodized training. Typically daily undulating periodization training (DUP) or non linear periodization training (NLP). NLP formed the basis of my popular Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training (PHAT) that a lot of people now follow. I still use that training quite a bit. But I also work in a lot of DUP which incorporates strength, power, and hypertrophy training on the premise that unless you utilize all three (strength, power, hypertrophy) you will never maximize the benefits of any one of the outcomes. So I'll do low rep heavy training on one day like a powerlifter, pure hypertrophy training like a bodybuilder on another day, and I'll also through in speed work at 40-60% of my 1RM for repeated rapid submaximal efforts in order to optimize power output. I'll often incorporate bands and chains. I've also done specialized protocols like Smolov squat cycle and some of the Sheiko programs. At the moment the program split I'm following is:
Day 1: Max effort upper body (low rep, heavy weight)
Day 2: Max effort lower body (low rep, heavy weight)
Day 3: Rest or high intensity cardio
Day 4: Chest and back hypertrophy & speed work
Day 5: Shoulders and arms hypertrophy and speed work
Day 6: Lower body hypertrophy and speed work
Day 7: Rest or high intensity cardio
JEFF: I've seen you use chains in your training before, is there a particular training device/aid, like chains, that you like to use often? Why?
LAYNE: Yeah, I use bands and chains. There is some evidence that they increase power and strength development better than straight weight alone, so I use them to augment my training. Also, it makes my training interesting and more fun.
JEFF: Do you believe in empty stomach cardio?
LAYNE: I do not think it is more beneficial than cardio after eating. A nice review article on fasted cardio appearing in the Strength and Conditioning Journal by Brad Schoenfeld really laid out several reasons why it does not hold up when put up under flame of science for the following reasons:
-Research has shown no difference in total fat loss between subjects doing fasted cardio and those doing cardio after eating.
-Fat burning consists of 1) liberating fatty acids from adipose tissue through lipolysis and then transport of those fatty acids to other tissues like muscle, liver, heart where they are then 2) oxidized for energy. When you eat before cardio you reduce lipolysis but it ends up not making a difference because lipolysis is NOT the rate limiting step of fat loss when it comes to cardio, it is oxidation that is rate limiting so you end up oxidizing the same amount
-You may burn MORE fat over a 24 hour period when you eat before cardio because there is a GREATER thermogenic response to cardio as opposed to eating fasted
-Lemon et al. demonstrated nitrogen losses were DOUBLED when you train fasted. Fantastic for maintaining muscle in a caloric deficit... NOT
-Not eating before cardio will reduce training intensity and means you will burn less calories during cardio because you won't have as much energy.
JEFF: How soon can we expect to be seeing you on stage again?
LAYNE: Well, I probably won't be competing this year as I am focused on several business pursuits and my wife and I plan to start a family soon so that is going to take precedent. I'd say 2013 you can expect to see me back.
JEFF: Now that I am done talking about bodybuilding, sets and reps, I'd like to depart from the typical bodybuilding interview topics. Layne, give us a list of some of your favourite bands/singers?
LAYNE: Definitely. My workout favorites include Disturbed, Chimaira, Pillar, Hatebreed, Rob Zombie, Papa Roach, Shinedown, Sevendust, and Slipknot. I also enjoy some weird stuff like music from some of my favorite video games like the theme music from Mass Effect 2 and Deus Ex. I also like some Hans Zimmer epic movie tracks like 'Mind Heist' from Inception. When I'm just chilling I love listening to bands like Staind and Filter.
JEFF: Chicken, steak or fish. Based on taste alone (no science here), what would you eat if you could only eat one for the rest of your life. It can be prepared anyway you want and it can be any cut. Chicken wings included.
LAYNE: Probably steak.
JEFF: What is your favourite muscle car? Any year, any make.
LAYNE: I'm not really a care guy to be honest. I'm afraid I'm not going to have a cool answer for this one. This is a guy who's cars are a 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix and a 2004 Oldsmobile Alero, HAH! But both are paid for and I value having no debt over driving some fancy car. But I guess if I had a bunch of money to drop on a car I'd get a nice Audi or BMW.
JEFF: Favourite movie? Why?
LAYNE: Tough one. I am a huge fan of Jaws because I wanted to be a marine scientist when I was younger. Also, I am a big fan of Jerry McGuire because I thought it was a great movie overall. I also really loved the Bourne Identity movie series. And, of course, the Terminator series, for obvious reasons .
JEFF: Who is your favourite sports figure of all time?
LAYNE: When I was younger, I was a huge Ryne Sandberg fan because I loved the cubs and loved the way he played the game. Now I really enjoy watching Tim Tebow. I just enjoy watching humble people who work really hard and who keep proving people wrong. I guess I can relate since I always had people telling me what I couldn't do when I was growing up and I really wanted to prove those people wrong. I'm sure Tebow feels the same way.
JEFF: I know you are good at everything, but are you good at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 too?
LAYNE: Never played it. I played MW2 and it was ok, but MW3 looked like more of the same. I'm terrible at FPS games online to be honest. My favorite game is the Mass
Effect series, I can't wait for Mass Effect 3. I've beaten ME2 on Insanity level 3 times now. Also, I really liked Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
JEFF: Where can people contact you for contest prep or nutritional/training advice?
LAYNE: Through my website at www.biolayne.com or emailing me [email protected] .
JEFF: You have your new DVD coming out, Layne Norton Reloaded. Where can we pre-order or purchase this DVD?
LAYNE: You can get ordering info on my website in my latest blog at www.biolayne.com or on my facebook fanpage www.facebook.com/LayneNorton .
JEFF: What about your previous DVD, Layne Norton Unleashed?
LAYNE: You can find that information in the same places
JEFF: Is there anywhere else people can find more Layne Norton content?
LAYNE: Probably the best place to find my stuff is on my website and also my webcast http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/insidethelife.htm
JEFF: Again, thank you for your time Layne.
LAYNE: Thanks for the opportunity!
If you have someone that is remarkable that you would like profiled or if you have any ideas, comments or questions, you can forward them to me at [email protected] .