Eric Helms on Making Adjustments for Bodybuilders and Powerlifters

Eric Helms on the Rippedbody Podcast

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Eric Helms is a coach, athlete, author, and educator. As a part of the 3DMJ Team, he coaches drug-free strength and physique competitors at all levels. Eric has competed since the mid-2000’s in natural bodybuilding, unequipped powerlifting and recently in Olympic lifting. He earned Pro status as a natural bodybuilder with the PNBA in 2011 and competes with the IPF at international level events as an unequipped powerlifter.

In this interview, I pick Eric’s brain about his online coaching practice. We go into detail on two topics that I believe are the most under-discussed in the industry – progress tracking and the adjustment decision-making process. Eric explains exactly what data he looks at, and the different principles that he applies when making decisions for his powerlifting and bodybuilding clients.

Eric has published multiple peer-reviewed articles in exercise science and nutrition journals and writes for commercial fitness publications. He’s taught undergraduate and graduate level nutrition and exercise science and speaks internationally at academic and commercial conferences for fitness, nutrition and strength and conditioning. He has an MS in exercise science, a second masters in sports nutrition, and is a strength and conditioning Ph.D. candidate at AUT in New Zealand. Rest assured that he is talking about then. 🙂

Listen or download this episode on Soundcloud. (Direct RSS feed URL for other players.)

Show notes

  1. Andy’s marvelous introduction of Eric. [0’00 ]
  2. ↓ On Autoregulation [3’08~]↓
  3. What are the uses of RPE training? [6’05]
  4. “It might be a more accurate way to judge training than using percentages of 1 RM… I’m hopeful that it may be a way of getting more precise loading for athletes.” [9’40]
  5. ↓ On Online Coaching [12’10~]↓
  6. What kind of clients do you work with? [12’15]
  7. “You can be a great coach who uses kinda shitty methods, and probably do better than a terrible coach who uses up to date methods but doesn’t know how to apply them in the context of an athlete relationship.” [16’30]
  8. How did you get started in the industry? [17’10]
  9. On client communication – E-mail vs video messages, note taking, spreadsheets etc. [19’05~]
  10. “The pros [of online coaching] so greatly outweigh the cons in my opinion that it’s worth it. [24’45]
  11. “If you’re someone in a town of 30,000 people, the likelihood that there will be a highly-qualified, specialist coach for your needs is pretty low. The likelihood that there is some guy or gal that thinks they are qualified is pretty high and if you’re a relative novice athlete you may not know the difference.”
  12. How often do you get clients to check in? What specific data do you ask for? [28’00]
  13. On the pitfalls of body-fat measurement devices: “It’s an issue of validity and reliability.” [33’30]
  14. How do we tell the difference between muscle loss, fat loss, and water fluctuations? [37’05]
  15. “It’s very important if you ask someone to weigh in every morning – especially when you are dealing with physique athletes, who are more prone towards body image and disordered eating type of behavior – to contextualize why. [To explain] that we do not care about the day to day fluctuations…”  [39’40]
  16. On the kind of data that Eric bases his adjustment decisions off of [41’20]
  17. On the mechanical inefficiencies of getting leaner – “Believe it or not, as you lose fat off your ass, your bench [numbers] will go down.” [42’45]
  18. “Trying to discern how much of the weight change is muscle and how much is fat is very difficult.” [45’00]
  19. On muscle mass change in competitors when dieting for a competition: “At the beginning of the diet, you’re probably putting on a little muscle if you’re doing things right, in the middle you’re probably not seeing much change, and then towards the end you’re losing muscle, almost unavoidably if someone is 4 or 5% body fat (if you’re a male). So really you’re trying to keep as much as possible over the course of it, as a net.”
  20. “It’s not all just nutritional math…” [47’40]
  21. Eric’s explains his fat-loss guidelines. [49’00]
  22. “The way I track and make decisions for a bodybuilder is different than for a powerlifter…” [50’40]
  23. On faster vs slower rates of weight loss. [54’00]
  24. Where you can catch up with Eric and his team. [58’30]
  25. When I say ‘punchable,’ who is the first person that comes to mind? [61’45]
  26. If you could grant one wish for the industry, what would it be? [62’30]
  27. End Of Interview & Book Announcements [64’15]

Selected links

Thank you for listening! – Andy and Eric

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About the Author

Andy Morgan

Hi, I'm Andy, co-author of 'The Muscle and Strength Pyramid' textbooks and founder of This site is my sincere effort to build the best nutrition and training guides on the internet. Some readers hire me to coach them, which I've been doing full-time, online, for the last seven years. If you're interested in individualized, one-on-one coaching to help you crush your physique goals, let's start the conversation. (You can read more about Andy here.)