Contact Tom MacCormick

Tom Arms Folded

Please use the form below to send me a message or ask any questions and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

The Irish Strength Institute Symposium 2016 – A Review

I recently headed over  to Dublin with my colleagues, Theo, Joe and Alejandro for  the Irish Strength Institute Symposium – July 2016

This was an awesome two days of learning from Eoin Lacey, Eric Serrano and John Meadows.
Below is an overview of the scheduled talks:
Day 1
1. The Gut Microbiome and its role in Body Composition (Eoin Lacey)
2. Controlling Inflammation to Optimise Hypertrophy, Body Composition and Overall Health (Dr. Eric Serrano)
3. Mountain Dog Training Philosophy – standard and high frequency programs explained (John Meadows)
4. Advanced Nutrition & Supplementation Protocols to Improve Adrenal & Thyroid Function (Dr. Eric Serrano)
5. Nutrition for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain (John Meadows)


Day 2
1. Contest Prep Secrets (John Meadows)
2. Epigenetics and its Importance in Individualising your approach to your athlete and clients (Eoin Lacey)
3. Serrano Secrets Part 1 – Ask the Doctor Anything! (Dr. Eric Serrano)
4. Spill the beans/truth regarding PED’s (John Meadows)
5. Serrano Secrets Part 2 – Ask the Doctor Anything! (Dr. Eric Serrano)

ISI Pic 1


An Irishman, an American and a Puerto Rican walk into a bar…and curl it!

These guys were full of knowledge and were all great presenters with their own unique style.

Eoin is all action and 100 miles an hour.

Eric is a font of knowledge, with a great sense of humour who also likes to cover ground at great speed.

John was more laid back and relaxed but still full of kn0wldege and fun stories about his time as both a businessman and a bodybuilder.

I have summarised my notes from the 2 days below. As you’ll notice the order of lectures and content covered within them changes slightly from the scheduled talks.

Tonnes of info was covered and I’ve tried my best to get that across to you. So without further adieu lets move on to…
Lecture 1:
Key things I learned in this talk:
The Gut turns over every 5-7 days
We are more bacteria than we are human…90% foreign bacteria in fact.
That bacteria has 100 times more genes than we do.
The immune system is built in the gut.
Neurotransmitters built in the gut. Basically, the gut is a big deal and you want yours to be healthy.
The vagus nerve is the main link between the brain and the gut. Optimising your digestion will be effected by the correct innervation of the vagus nerve.
You can stimulate/retrain the vagus nerve by gargling (singing or the gag reflex also have the same effect). I’m a terrible singer so that rules out the former and as for the gag reflex, well, let’s not go there!
So gargling is a top tip to help with the health of your gut. Do this every day for 30 seconds. A word of warning…I tried this the next day and it felt like a serious cardio workout. Holding your breath for that long is no joke! I nearly passed out. (Bonus learning experience – I’m shite at holding my breath). Perhaps it would be smarter to start with 10-15 seconds and build up to the full 30s.
There are a multitude of potential causes of leaky gut, including:
• Excessive alcohol
• Food itolerances
• Hormonal issues
• Sleep issues
• Antibiotics
• Birth control pill
• Inflammation
• Acid blocking drugs
• Physical stress
• Emotional stress
Active recovery is often overlooked in peoples training schedule and is a major consideration of helping to optimize your gut health.
The 3 markers for increase gut permeability are:
1. LPS (Lipopolysaccharides)
2. Zonulin
3. DAO (Diamine Oxidase)
There are 6 areas to promote/make a ‘payment’ into your health bank account.

These are:
1. Sleep
2. Air
3. Water
4. Nutrition – Macronutrients
5. Micronutrients
6. Mindfulness
You cannot get good results if chronically inflamed.
The Gut Balance Revolution is a good book for more info.
Two different approaches to healing the gut:
1: Weed, Seed, & Feed
2: Remove, Replace, Re-inoculate, & Repair
Eat slowly and mindfully. A great tip to achieve this is The 5, 10, 15 Rule:
5 = breaths before starting your meal
10 = Put your knife & fork down for 10 seconds between mouthfuls
15 = Make meals last 15 minutes
After doing a course of antibiotics you should reinoculate with probiotics for 4 times the dose of antibiotics. E.g., 1 week course of antibiotics = 4 weeks probiotics
Eoin likes the following supplements to help aid the gut/digestion:
1. NOW Foods Super Enzymes
2. Xymogen ProbioMax Plus DF
3. Glutamine
Eoin’s suggestions of good books for further reading on the area:
Missing Microbes by Martin J. Blaser
Brain Maker by David Perlmutter
Eat Dirt by Josh Axe
Gut by Giulia Enders
The Good Gut by Justin & Eric Sonnenburg
Why Isn’t My Brain Working by Datis Kharrazian

Lecture 2
7 factors to look at with clients:
1. Genetics
2. Physical
3. Environment
4. Social
5. Religion
6. Chemical
7. Economical
Food intolerances/sensitivities may not have obvious immediate implications but are important long-term. Ignoring them leaves you at a risk down the road.
The most common food allergies are:
• Dairy
• Wheat
• Soy
• Corn
• Peanuts
• Eggs
Sleep is the most important element to control when it comes to recovery and reduction of inflammation.
The others are:
Nutrition – Immunology/Allergies
Sleep (S could also be for supplements)
Xeno-biotics & xeno-estrogens
For the observant amongst you you’ll realise the above spells out the acronym F.I.N.D.S.E.X. I thought this should be known as the Tinder Principle!
Eric said he agreed with Eoin about the 4 Rs but, in his experience the order should be changed to:
• Remove
• Repair
• Replace
• Re-inoculate
The following supplements are useful for repairing the gut…colostrum, zinc carnosine, licorice, lactoferrin, and glutamine.
If using nut or nut butters in a nutrition plan, then whole nuts are better when trying to lose fat and nut butters when trying to gain weight.
You should not use the same probiotic for more than 6 weeks.
When taking a probiotic taking it with food in the morning is a good choice.
Variety with probiotics supplements is important to allow you to plant different ‘seeds’ (remember the weed, feed & seed approach from lecture 1).
The two types of probiotics are the ones we eat/supplement with and what we come into contact with.
The skin, lungs and stomach all “touch” the outside world. With regards to these we have the most control over what we eat so that is why it is so important to our overall health to have a good diet.
Doing the morning gargling tip with vinegar has helped digestion with many of his patients. Using local honey has also worked to deal with allergies, such as, hay fever.
Ox bile is a good supplement for those who have strong intolerances. It is essential for those that have had their gall bladder removed. Ox bile is a detergent and act as a signal to release enzymes.
2-300mg per day depending on the condition is the dose advised for ox bile. If using ox bile, you should also consider vitamin A.
You can’t always eat the same protein source day in day out, for weeks, months or even years. You must change the amount &/or type of protein source or you will get inflamed. So rotate your protein sources and amounts occasionally.
His number 1 tip to help improve sleep…avoid computer, smart phones, TV or food for 2 hours before bed.

Some of my clients have tried to get some sleep during a session ;)
Some of my clients have tried to get some sleep during a session 😉

Lecture 3
John believes you should focus on developing 1-2 muscle groups at a time.

During this time the strong body part are only trained once per week while the weaker (or focus) muscle groups are trained twice per week.
John is big on longevity of training. As a result, a key element in his exercise selection and sequencing is providing a strong growth stimulus while minimizing the stress on the joints.
John has what he calls “Base” workout for a muscle group. Usually you would do 4 base workouts a week plus 1-3 “Pump” style sessions. These sessions have 4 phases or components. I have outlined these below:
Building a Base:
Phase 1 –
Start with a mind muscle connection “activation” exercise.
Can be compound or isolation but, needs to be an exercise you can feel & get a pump on
Often John uses DBs or machines in this phase
Should be easy on the joints
Focus is pre-pump NOT pre-fatigue!
8-10 reps (pyramid up to 8-10RM)
3-4 sets (in a 12 week prog generally 3 sets in weeks 1-4 & 9-12, 4 sets in week 5-8)
Rest periods as needed but usually 90-120s
Phase 2 –
John’s definition of explosive in this context is:
Lower the weight under control and drive it up with ‘authority’.
This phase is the “meat & potatoes” of your workout
5-7 reps
3-4 sets
Pyramid up in weight
Focus on speed of concentric
Last set at or near failure (bar speed should be a little slower on final set
This is an excellent time to use accommodating resistance
Phase 3 –
“Supramax Pump”
The goal is simply to get the best pump possible
3-4 sets
12-15 reps
All sets to failure
This is all about pain tolerance
Time to use intensifying techniques such as, drop sets, partials, rest pause, iso-hold, challenge sets* etc.
*challenge sets only done about once per month. A challenge set is where you go “bat-shit crazy”.
Only add these techniques to final set
Phase 4 –
Pick exercises which involve a big stretch component. For example, Romanian deadlifts or DB flyes.
Can simply do sets in normal fashion
Alternatively, could do weighted stretch. For example, iso-hold at bottom of DB flyes or in fully stretched position of lat pulldown.
Another strategy is to simply stretch a muscle group right after training it. For example, leg extensions straight into quad stretch.
An example legs session using the above principles:

A Lying Leg Curl
B Squat with bands or chains
C Legpress
D Stiff-legged deadlift
Pump Up the Volume:
John also likes to use “Pump” workouts. These can be used to add an extra session for a body part or in place of the full Base session for strong muscle groups that just need maintaining. John also likes this style of session for arm training.
A Pump session is set up to use Phases 1, 3, & 4 of the base workout. Besides removing phase 2 the other major difference is that sets aren’t taken to failure. He suggested an 8-9RPE (1 or 2 reps in reserve). The intensification techniques are also removed from phase 3.
John likes to have 3 days of rest after a base workout before hitting a muscle group again and 2 days post pump session. So if training a muscle twice a week you could do Monday & Friday. The Monday would be the full base session and Friday would be the pump session.
Rest to Grow:

A pearl of wisdom from John on rest periods…

“This isn’t a cardio challenge. This isn’t an endurance test. This is trying to build massive amounts of muscle.”

Mountain Dog High Frequency Training (HFT):

John is a big fan of HFT for bringing up lagging muscle groups.

Hit the muscle 3 days a week on non-consecutive days. E.g., Monday, Wednesday & Friday

Do this for 2 muscle groups

Don’t take sets to or past failure. RPE should be 8-9 (1-2 reps in tank).

Same amount of volume as base plan but, spread across 3 sessions. So if normally do 15 sets, 2xweek then you would do 10 sets, 3xweek on HFT.

When following this plan, you MUST reduce volume on other body part.

6-10 weeks is the maximum you can run HFT for a given muscle group
John prefers to train using a 6 day a week template when using HFT. For example,

Mon – Legs
Tues – Back
Wed – Legs
Thurs – Chest & Shoulders
Fri – Legs
Sat – Arms
Sun – Off

To target a weak body part consider the following variables:

1. Exercise execution
2. Frequency
3. Volume
4. Exercise order
5. Workout nutrition


Lecture 4

To be honest Eric went at warp speed in this talk and I really didn’t take too many notes.

(The buzzing fridge/freezer in the Air B&B we stayed at the night before was taking its toll and I was mainlining caffeine to try and maintain some concentration.
To be honest we were all suffering at this point and I saw both Theo and Joe glazing over. This had nothing to do with Eric’s talk which was energetic, informative and hilarious. The only problem is we were all fried and my notes show that.) Simply I have…

A -Amount
C – Conversion
E – Expression

There could be an issue at any point along these 3 which could impair thyroid function.

To test thyroid function, check your temperature 3 hours after waking and then again every 3 hours. Do this for 3 days. Temperature should be about 37 degrees. If it is below 37degrees every time, then you have a thyroid issue (or a dodgy thermometer).

And finally, there was this pearl of wisdom…

“Men are like microwaves. They have an on/off button. Women are like a conventional oven with on, off, fan only, fan assisted, broil, upper & lower heating elements, lower only, grill, lower & grill, grill & fan, light…”


Lecture 5

5 keys to Mountain Dog Diet Plan:

1. Calories matter
2. Nutrient timing
3. No macro hate
4. Food quality
5. The 10% rule

The more advanced you are the more important peri workout nutrition is.

Gaining muscle is about…Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) V Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB).

30-60mins before training have a small meal of easily digested food. For example, rice, whey and peanut butter.

Aim for this meal to be about:
30-35g protein
35-40g carbohydrate
10g fat

The timing of this meal is individual and depends upon your ability to digest it. The range is generally 30-120mins before training.

Intra –
15-30g EAAs
40-50g Branched Cyclic Dextrins
Start 10mins pre-workout

Follow minimum effective dose principal with intra-carbs. Get the most from the least!

Glucose disposal agents can help: R-ALA, Berberine, Chromium Picolinate, Apple Cider Vinegar, Gymnema Sylvestre

These should be taken pre-workout if following the above intra-nutrition protocol

Post workout? – Address the issue intra!

60% of carbs pre, intra & post. Generally, about 40g per & during so remainder in post training meal.
For example, if on 300g/day of carbs then 60% = 180g. So…
40g pre training meal
40g intra
100g post-training meal

Rest of the carbs for the day can go wherever client/you want them

Calorie needs generally fall between 12-18 x BW in pounds


Tools for fat loss:

1. Injectable Carnitine 100mg 5 mins before training works extremely well. Need to be in a hyperinsulinemic state for it to work so need to have consumed carbs.
2. Cardio – LISS v HIIT…it is context specific. Generally, early in prep he uses HIIT but, when close to show/end of diet more likely to use LISS. Favourite HIIT protocol is 10s on 50s off (start at 10 intervals and work up to 20). Spin bike with high gear is a good option for this. Ideally do cardio separate to weigh session
3. Reduce Carbs. Remove from meals furthest from workout. Keep carbs peri-workout in-tact for as long as possible.
4. Fat Burners. Caffeine pre cardio is one of his favourite. Anecdotally he finds coffee better than caffeine tablets. Also likes tyrosine.
5. Thyroid meds!!!!!!
Lecture 6:

Mountain Dog Nutrition Guidelines

Protein 1-1.25g/lbs./BW. Generally, men closer to 1.25 and women closer to 1g.
Fat 0.4g/lbs./BW
Carb = the remainder of calories

Many ways to monitor progress/get client feedback:
• Weight
• Pictures
• Energy
• Sleep quality & duration
• Strength/gym performance
• Calipers (John likes to check 2 fattest sites)
• Digestion
• Compliance (e.g., did you stick to the diet 100%, 90%, 80%?)
• Did you get a good pump?

Cheat Meals:

Cookie anyone?
Cookie anyone?

John likes them as a tool to aid fat loss.

They provide mental/psychological relief for people who have been dieting hard for a long period of time.

To work physiologically you need to NEED the meal. Very often people don’t actually need a cheat meal they just want one because they’ve heard about them/sound like fun.

Can cause a pulse of leptin. This can last up to a maximum of 24hrs depending on the magnitude/number of cheat meals.

Cheat meal guidelines are basically go and have a meal out that you want. Have a main and a dessert. Eat until you are full and feel satisfied NOT too stuffed. For example, burger & fries and then slice of cheesecake.

A targeted re-feed meal is a bit different to a cheat meal. It is implemented on a ratio to the meal it is replacing. This is either 2x or 3x the calories of the meal it is replacing. The bulk of the additional calories should come from carbohydrate.
Targeted re-feeds are high carb, low fat.

You could simply have the normal scheduled meal with additional carbs or use it as an opportunity to add variety to diet by having a completely different meal.
An example is if you have a meal containing roughly 400 calories of 30g protein, 15g fat, and 35g carbs and you had been dieting hard for 6 weeks you might have 2x re-feed. As such the meal would become 800 calories with 30g protein, 15g fat and 135 carbs.

Post diet:

John likes to start by introducing low GI carbs and then gradually systematically up the carbs in the diet. Over time the re-introduction of higher GI carbs would happen.

Post diet is the one-time John thinks it is really important to focus on low GI foods. The rest of the time the total calories and macros are more important than type of carb in his opinion.

Peak Week:

John has to make a weight class which adds a different challenge that many bodybuilders don’t have to worry about.

John needs to aggressively manipulate his body to reach the 212lbs class.

To make weight he uses Magnesium Citrate to clear colon.

He uses saunas to lose water weight.

For John’s shows weigh in is the day before so he has 24hrs to fill back up. To achieve this, he:
1. Gradually rehydrates (don’t slam fluid back too quickly as causes GI distress)
2. To rehydrate he starts with a litre of water. Drink this slowly.
3. Then uses intra workout mix in 3L of water. Sip on this before going to do a pump session.
4. Whole body pump session lasting approximately 2 hours.
5. Pump sessions focuses on emphasizing flattest muscle groups and filling them back up.
6. No hard and fast rules to pump session but goal is to ensure muscles get a pump. Keep doing sets until pumped. This might happen very quickly or take quite a few sets depending on muscle and level of depletion.
7. Then after training has a big cheat meal
8. Go to bed

If a client doesn’t have to make a weight class, then the above steps aren’t required. John tends to gradually titrate carbs up through peak week. This allows him to assess and find point at which client looks best. AKA “sweet spot”. Then try and hold that steady.

John isn’t a fan of drastic carb depletion before show.
Lecture 7


Our interaction with our environment and how it impacts on our genes.”

The Epigenome defined:

“The epigenome is a multitude of chemical compounds that can tell the genome what to do. The human genome is the complete assembly of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)-about 3 billion base pairs – that makes each individual unique. DNA holds the instructions for building the proteins that carry out a variety of functions in a cell. The epigenome is made up of chemical compounds and proteins that can attach to DNA and direct such actions as turning genes on or off, controlling the production of proteins in particular cells.”

Genotype V Phenotype

Genotype : genetic constitution (make up) of an individual.
Phenotype : the physical appearance of the plant, animal or human become of its genetic make up (genotype).

Factors effecting phenotype expression include:
• SNPs
• Auto-immune disease
• Gut barrier health
• Overtraining
• Environmental exposure
• Inflammation
• Sleep
• Alcohol
• Stress management
• Drugs
• Mental health
• Digestion
• Inactivity
• Vitamin Deficiency
• Mineral deficiency
• Food intolerance
• Bacterial Diversity

The 2 key functional medicine questions:

1. What can I take away from this person’s life to improve it?
2. What can I add to this person’s life to improve it?

Two good apps for sleep/mindfulness
1. Headspace
2. Heartmap

For food choices/avoiding excess chemicals 2 useful apps:
1. Skindeep
2. Dirty Dozen

SNPs (pronounced ‘snips’) = Single Nuclei Polymorphism

Dr. Ben Lynch has a useful resource online = the mutation wall chart

If wanting to explore genetics, then 23andme.com is a good place to start. Making sense of the results requires a lot of research though. Using geneticgenie.com (FREE) is a useful resource to begin piecing everything together. Geneticards.com another good option.


Lecture 8

Prevention is better than cure.

Cancer is a systemic disease

Ketogenic Diet: Controlling sugars is one intervention you can implement to help. Following a Very Low Carb Diet (VLCD) has shown benefits.

Vitamin D also has benefit (10,000IUs/day)

SLEEP: Melatonin supplementation is useful. You need sleep to aid recovery. People often stressed and cannot sleep. Melatonin helps combat this and improves sleep quality and duration. Thus, the body can better fight illness.

Vitamin C in IV has proved effective with some of his patients. The starting dose is 50g/day!!!

Praying/Having a Good Support System

Petting or Compassionate Touch: Releases Oxytocin.

Insulin Therapy: keep sugars to 30-40g during therapy

Antioxidants (even during chemo)

Use Free Form Amino Acids rather than Whey as it stops pancreas releasing high levels of insulin. Desiccated Liver is another good form of protein (12, 3xday)

Glutamine actually feeds cancer cells.

Nicholas Gonzalez was a great Cancer doctor and has extremely good info online. He was a proponent of pancreatic enzymes. Advised as much as 50-100 pills. Pancreatic enzymes are from pork. He also had many different approaches to diet to compliment treatment.

If you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, then you should take pancreatic enzymes.

Taurine & glutamine should be taken together.


Lecture 9

6-8g of citrulline malate for pump

Training lats is all about “elbows and angles”

Drive elbows and squeeze!

Me Putting Some Work In On Pull-Ups - Elbows & Angles
Me Putting Some Work In On Pull-Ups – Elbows & Angles

Developing rear delts is simple…
High reps 7 burn the hell out of them twice a week (3-4 sets each time). Extending sets with partial ROM is very effective.

Get Your Rear Delts Growing With Nasty High Rep Sets
Get Your Rear Delts Growing With Nasty High Rep Sets

So there you have it…2 days of knowledge bombs. Hopefully, soe of it was useful to you. I know I took a lot from the experience and had plenty of new tools in the toolbox to help my clients.

For more info on all the presenters go here:

Eoin/ISI http://www.isipersonaltraining.com/

Eric http://infinityftsblog.com/tag/dr-eric-serrano/

John http://www.mountaindogdiet.com/

There was third day which involved gym sessions with John putting his training principles into action. Unfortunately, we all had to be back at work on the Monday so missed this.





The Aftermath of the Practical Day
The Aftermath of the Practical Day

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top