Pre-workouts: Stimulant vs. Non-Stim

By IFBB Pro Johnnie Jackson

Sponsored by ALLMAX

Q: Can you explain the pros and cons of using a stimulant pre-workout?

A: The benefits are pretty well known. Stimulants raise your energy and alertness levels, which helps get you psyched and ready to tear up the gym. The downside is that if you’re not careful, you start relying on them to the point where you don’t even think you are capable of good workouts without them. Case in point, I used to use stims a lot more often than I do now. There would be times when I was in a rush to get to the gym, and I forgot to grab my energy drink. I would be a few sets into the workout and then suddenly remember, and I would go into almost a panic, like … oh, crap! Now I can’t train! I won’t be as strong! Then I would take a step back and say to myself, dumbass, you’re training right now and you were doing perfectly fine until you remembered you didn’t have your drink. I rarely use them anymore in the off-season. It’s the final weeks of prep when my energy levels are down that I will get back to them.

Blast Biceps for Growth

Q: My biceps are really lagging compared to the rest of my body. Everything else grows well and I have gained size in the last three years, but my bi’s still continue to lag. I train them twice a week. Here is my routine: barbell preacher curls – 4×12, 10, 10, 8; standing barbell curls – 3×12, 10, 8; cross body hammer curls – 3×10. Then I end with 21s. Do you have any advice or tips? I’d greatly appreciate it.

A: Believe it or not, back in my first season competing as a pro in 2003, I asked various judges what they thought I needed to improve. The answer was biceps and legs (the legs have been a work in progress, obviously). It only took me a year to bring my biceps up so they matched the rest of my upper body. What I did was one intense, heavy workout not too different from the one you’re doing, once a week. Every other day I trained, no matter what the body part was, I started the workout off with two different biceps exercises for two sets of 15 reps each. What that did was to force the biceps to work a little bit over the course of the rest of the workout. You would be very surprised how involved they really are in so many exercises we do, and until they are pumped and pre-fatigued you would never even know. Getting all that blood in them so often was also important because it stretched the fascia and kept a steady stream of nutrients coming into the biceps. Give this a try and I bet you see some gains within a month or two at most.

Tips For Killer Quads

Q: I’ve been training for two and a half years now, and I’ve gone from 136 pounds to 186 lean pounds right now, and I’m hoping next year to do my first show. The only thing I feel I’m really lacking is some killer quads, so I thought I should ask you what’s worked for you. Leg pressing and squatting only seems to bring growth to my hams and glutes.

A: When you’re not genetically blessed in the quads like Big Ramy, you have to get creative and start trying new things. One thing that made a huge difference for me was to use a narrower foot stance on squats and leg presses to put more stress on the outer quads. Building that sweep is what really matters, because it’s what gives your quads the illusion of being huge. On squats, I have my feet about an inch inside of shoulder width on both sides, and on leg presses I will sometimes even have my feet almost touching. You will probably have to go lighter, but don’t worry about that. This might sound silly coming from me, but it’s not about outlifting everyone else in the gym. It’s about developing your physique, and oftentimes going a little lighter and feeling the muscle work better is the only solution for a lagging area.

Still Train Hard and Heavy!

Q: How has your leg training changed over the years? Are you doing them more often, for higher reps, etc.?

A: Being over 50 now and having already been training for about 40 years, gaining mass is difficult to say the least. What I am focusing now isn’t so much trying to get my quads bigger in general, but focusing more on the outer sweep as that’s really what gives the illusion of big legs. The main change I’ve made in recent years is to use a narrower stance on all my pressing movements: squats, leg presses, and hacks, to target the outer quads. I’ve also incorporated techniques like pausing all my reps on leg extensions for a full one-second squeeze and doing slower reps on leg presses and hacks – five seconds up, five seconds down. But make no mistake, I still train damn hard, and I still love to move some weight!

Body Fat? Never Measured It

Q: What is an acceptable body fat percentage for the off-season? I have heard numbers thrown around such as don’t get much more than 10 percent, or to stay within 20 pounds of your contest weight. What standard do you personally follow for yourself in the off-season?

A: I don’t measure body fat and never have. I do subscribe to the idea of staying within 20 pounds of my competition weight. Do I always do that? No, at times like the holidays I definitely let myself have more treats and go about 5-7 pounds beyond that. But it’s really an individual thing based on what you are comfortable looking and feeling like in the off-season. Some guys hate getting out of shape, others don’t seem to mind. As long as you get shredded when you need to, that’s all that really matters in the end.

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1 scoop Impact Pump (helps increase blood flow and transportation of nutrients while significantly helping the focus for mind-muscle connection)

1 scoop Aminocore (prevents muscle tissue breakdown during training)

10g Glutamine (helps with DOMS, insulin sensitivity, gut health and immune system)

5g Creatine (for that fast-acting, explosive power needed to push weights and helps with muscle hydration)

1 scoop Carbion (50g carbs) (really helps with energy and endurance during workout by giving your body carbs that don’t have to be digested, therefore they are readily available for fuel)


2 scoops IsoFlex (fast-digesting protein with essential amino acids to start the building or repairing process immediately)

10g Glutamine again (helps with DOMS, insulin sensitivity, gut health and immune system)

Give these a try and watch your energy, intensity and pumps dramatically increase in the gym.

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