elitefts™ sponsored athlete Marc Bartley is one of the premier powerlifters in the world in the 275 lbs class. Since August 2007, he’s been recovering from knee surgery after an injury at the IPA Pro-Am, and if you’ve been following his training log, you know he’s made great strides in both rehabilitating the knee and cutting excess bodyweight and fat.

Here, he gives a recap of his recent progress and describes the “future lean hell” he faces in working with nutritionist Shelby Starnes of Troponin Nutrition.

Sweet Hell

I just wanted to devote a few paragraphs of my log to the sweet hell I’ve been enduring since my decision – or the forced hand because of my injury – to get lean.

I broke 250 lbs last week at some point, and I was super proud of the situation. I had been fighting for it for several weeks. I took pictures of this and sent them to Shelby. I’ll try to post them here, but I suck at posting images. He gave me a nice, “You’ve made a lot of progress,” but this is kind of like telling a fat girl she’s thinner with that “deer in the headlights” look on your face. You’re kind of stunned, but you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings so you fib a little.

I’ve taken to calling my fat “Flap Jack.” This is from the Adam Sandler movie Click, where he fast forwards through life but can control the speed and ends up really fat twenty years later. He then fast forwards again and has lost a lot of weight, but his skin is stretched out and flaps up and down when he moves it.

I take it in stride like everything else and just keep rolling. I’ve been extremely good and only have a cheat meal when Shelby gives me permission to have one. I am totally committed to this thing now. You could even say I’m obsessed with it. I had these grandiose ideas of being finished and done with this whole process by my 40th birthday on May 29th. I honestly thought I could safely reach 6%-7% bodyfat by then.


I told Shelby I wanted to get to 4%-6% bodyfat, and he sent me back an email saying, essentially, that I had no idea how much work that was going to take. I got carried away with it because I started at about 30% bodyfat, and right now I’m at about 15%. Shelby told me that going from 30% to 15% is a “cakewalk” – yes, a cakewalk – but going from 15% to 10% will be hell. From 10% to 7% I should pray for mercy, and anything below this is nearly impossible without a LOT of help.

Weekly pictures, diet changes and double, double cardio hell are just a few of the tasty things I’ll have to endure – plus, having to hear from him every week is like having a wife wear you out. He’s definitely thorough and detailed, and that’s important when it comes to this. Being fat was so easy.

So, I tell him I want 10%, and he gives me the 20-week minimum. This means twenty more weeks of this! I’ve decided to continue on, because I’m nuts, and like I said, I’ve committed to this thing. By August, it’ll be nine months. My guess is that my weight will be more like 225 lbs when I’m done. I really only started this to keep me from re-injuring myself and trying to come back from my knee injury too quickly.

So, here I am. Last summer, I committed to a meet that I didn’t want to go to, injured myself and ruined my whole summer, and now I’m committing to dieting all summer this year. What the hell is wrong with me?

All I can say is that Shelby Starnes and Justin Harris know what they’re talking about. They’re detailed and can get you to any goal as far as weight management. Unfortunately, I do feel a lot better, don’t snore anymore, have normalized my blood pressure and lowered my heart rate to around 60bpm or less. I haven’t had my cholesterol checked, but I’m sure it’s lower. There are lots of benefits to doing this – just don’t get yourself injured so you HAVE to do it like I did. This is still one of the best decisions I’ve made in quite a while. If you interested, you can email Shelby at:


Sample Training Week

-stepmill 30 min
-ab work 6 sets x 8
-regular flat work again
-some tricep work


-am cardio: 35 mins
-tai chi

-30 mins cardio am
-30 mins pm
-hack squat machine 4 sets x 8
-rev hyper 3x15
-spent, so I called it there

Thurs am:
-1 hour cardio
-tai chi
Thurs pm:

-cardio 30 mins
-felt like I was coming down with something

-45 mins cardio
-raw conventional pulling to 655x1 w/straps, then for some dumbass reason went back down to 500x10. this sucked badly, and every single rep was uglier then the last. with the pollen out, my nasal membranes are really dry and my nose started bleeding a couple of times. stuffed it with a paper towel (nosepon) and rolled on. bled on the 655 and the last half of the 500x10. nice.
-rev hyper x 8 x 4 sets

-hour on the bike
-took a break and trained a couple people, then did 3 laps with the sled with 2.5 plates: 2 forward, 1 backward

I’ve got my new plan from Shelby now, and it does definitely suck, but I get two high carb days now instead of one. The bad part is that he reduced the amount of carbs on these days by a third, so it’s good cop/bad cop, as usual. The cardio is suckier, with a 60/30 split on low days, 45 minutes on medium days and none on high days. The bad part here is a lower carb level on both medium and low days. Shelby tells me I’ll lose one of the high carb days soon. Great. This is going to be a long ass summer for me, and it’s only spring now.


What’s your stance on foot position in the squat? Do you like them pointing straight ahead? Or do you advocate flaring them out a bit?

I keep them mostly straight, with a slight twist. The twist is a flexibility issue that has changed over time.

Try to hold them as straight as you can. This will make the hips contribute more and enable you to go back further than you would if they were pointed out too far. I also think this takes some pressure off the adductors, which usually have poor flexibility in most people.

Also, with a little straighter foot position, it’ll give you more balance with wider stances. You won’t see-saw as much when you take the weight out.

What’s the best way to use the fat bar for a bench cycle?

First of all, this is a great purchase. I think we went two or three years exclusively with the fat bar during training.

If you use it for dynamic work, limit your time with it. All DE bench work is tough on the elbows, but the fat bar can hurt a little more. I would use it only for 2-3 weeks at a time for dynamic work.

For max effort, high board presses are not that great of a choice for the fat bar. 2 and 3 board are fine, floor press is great, and some incline and decline are okay. You should only spend a week or two on these. You can rotate to a regular bar, squat bar or a Swiss/football bar. I wouldn’t use it for shirt work, though. Too hard to deal with.

When sled dragging, how do you determine how much weight should be used?

Just use your common sense on this one. If it's for distance, you know it can't be too heavy. Shorter trips can be much heavier. Generally,

Most dudes:
Distance and interval cardio work: plate to plate and a half

Strength- 2.5 to 4 plates

Most chicks:
Distance and ICW: 25lb to a 45lb plate

Strength: 1.5 to 2 plates plus

This is for belt dragging only. You would have to lower it by half or so on each level if you are ankle dragging

Wave both levels.