Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT podcast - (episode 22) - 11 Nov 14 - Host Bob Whelan with Guest Tommy Kono

NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT podcast - (episode 22) - 11 Nov 14 - Host Bob Whelan with Guest Tommy Kono

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tweaking the 3 Days per Week Routine - By Todd Baisley


Like many readers of Natural Strength, I have trained most of the last couple decades on a two day per week, whole body workout routine, after a decade or so on more frequent training splits. This allows me to be fully charged and eager to work out again. The gains come just as well, and I feel more liberated in my day to day schedule. However, like most long time trainers, I mix it up now and again to keep it fresh. This summer, for the first time since my teenage years, I took a few months to experiment with a three day per week protocol again. Though I am back to two days per week again, here are some observations I made while going at it thrice weekly.

The first thing I figured out right away, was the need to vary the intensity and frequency of the big movements. Normally, I like to be pretty wiped out after a workout, often needing to lie down for a few minutes. This just didn’t work when hitting it Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Strength went backwards after a couple weeks and training enthusiasm dipped significantly. While we all have bad workouts, if you are getting weaker two weeks in a row, it is time to reevaluate. To combat this, I found that spot where I was training hard enough to be out of breath for much of the workout, but not wiped out. This enabled me to still get that rush of endorphins and psychological reset, where the cares of the day seem to melt away, without killing my love for lifting. I also found my poundages stayed solid or crept higher.

Perhaps the most enjoyable thing for me, was the variety I could fit in during the week without lengthening my workout. If I had already done one hard squat session that week, I felt fine about doing a lower rep session, or some other exercise, like a leg extension, that I would normally not bother with if only training two days per week. Same with weighted dips and deadlifts. I hit most of them twice per week, at least one time hard, then played around with a less draining movement for the third day. Because the other movements were not as taxing, I could hit them full bore without overtraining.

I also noticed more hardness and vascularity. Dr. Ken noted the same thing regarding hardness in an article in the September 2002 issue of Milo. And while I could hardly care less about vascularity, a veiny forearm to go along with a calloused grip and firm handshake isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can also use the opportunity to focus on some weak point. Train more moderately (intensity or frequency) on some of your stronger movements, and you can hammer away harder where you need it. I took the opportunity to train grip/forearms three days a week, with a few different movements and really noticed the difference after a month.

Though I didn’t have a set in stone program, a couple workouts I did that were representative are as follows: one set of squats 20 or more reps; one set of weighted dips; one set of dumbbell row; one set of presses; one set of barbell curls; and a couple sets of wrist rollers. Another routine in the week was: one set of weighted chins followed immediately by deadlifts (this is one of the best lat combos I have ever done); bodyweight dips to failure; leg press; upright rows from the floor; one set of preacher curls; one set of reverse curls and one set of wrist curls. Three days a week proved pretty sustainable and realistic, but I still prefer to train two. I can train heavier and harder. But for a season, it proved a good change of pace. You may find the same thing yourself.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Two Approaches to High Volume Training - By Todd Baisley

Most of us who visit Natural Strength probably wouldn't be considered high volume trainers. Years ago, we realized we made better progress and enjoyed lifting much more on a lower volume, less frequent, and more intense protocol. Some of us even became more upbeat as a person, without our CNS being beat down from 5 to 6 days per week of relentless training.

Having said that, there are some times when a higher volume (say 20 sets per body part) may fit your lifestyle. When stationed on a smaller base in Panama during the late eighties, there was precious little to do after we were no longer allowed off base. Camping out in the gym for set after set, at that phase of my life, was better than hanging out at the cheesy NCO club. Some people I know and have known of, have found a good gym therapeutic when going through a divorce, and easier than going straight home to an empty apartment. Ditto for some retirees with more energy and time on their hands than they are used to. While it would probably be better for them to develop other interests and relationships, for some the gym scratches the itch.

While there are an infinite number of ways to adjust a high volume routine, they generally fall on or between two poles. One is a more health and muscle building focus, while the other would be pure strength and size.

The first approach could be epitomized by some of Jack Lalanne's routines. In his later years he stated that he would do 20 sets per body part, resting 15 seconds between sets. While one doesn't have to follow this exactly, the idea is a lot of sets in a little time. Supersets are encouraged and reps would usually be more in the 8 to 20 range than the typical strength building range. A good blend of compound and isolated exercises is typical. Plan on using a lot less weight for the last seventeen sets or so.

The upside is there is no need for extra cardio. It also can be great therapy for aching joints. When asked what to do for injuries, Jack would often respond, "Work that sucker!". Find the right angle, the right exercises, and strengthen that muscle all around, while pumping it with blood. I have asked a couple of physical therapists if blood flow is the key to connective tissue repair, both of them said yes. Many sets equals much blood flow (as well as a cost effective and manly approach to physical therapy!).

The downside is most of us won't gain much size or strength on this protocol. While a bulky fellow might carve out some muscularity, I have frankly always gone backwards in the size and strength department when on this type of routine. Better break out your copy of BRAWN or SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH if that is your goal.

The polar opposite would be a high volume workout emphasizing big weights, long rest periods, and compound movements. Paul Anderson used this type of approach. Do a set, rest as long as needed to get your strength back, but not cool down, then do another set. Repeat many times. Squats, half squats, weighted dips, presses, presses from the forehead, deadlift, etc. Plan on spending a long time in the gym. It's not a bad idea to bring some milk or other energy giving drink while you camp out.

On the plus, if you can keep your calories up, you will slowly add layers of thick, dense muscle tissue, the kind that won't disappear if you miss a week in the gym. Because you are doing so many sets, you can become very proficient at a movement, and your strength will go up. Patience and not training to failure are important.

On the down side, this will do little to improve overall health. You NEED to do cardio as well. Strength AND health, as Bob rightly reminds us. Major time investment is another down side. You can make as good or better gains on an abbreviated program. However, if you're at a season when you need to fill time or you're a young guy and you and your buddies enjoy a long squat off, give it a try. Life will get busy again, and you can always fall back on a more sensible program.

Monday, September 8, 2014

ONE ARM TRAINING - By Howard L. Liviskie

I have always tried to do something that entails one arm training. This type of training is great for developing power and speed. It will also help if you tend to favor one side over the other. This kind of training is great to add to a full program or just to make a training day of all one arm exercises. When most people hear the term "one arm training", they think of dumbbell curls or triceps work. Well, those exercises are okay, but not the only ones I think of. I believe that one arm movements should use a lot of muscles and should make you work hard. Swings, one arm clean and presses, one arm snatches, and bent presses are all one arm movements. These are going to give you the most bang for your buck. Some of these movements are a technique driven, such as the swing or the snatch, but anyone can do them.

Let's start with the swing. First, I would like to say that a good place to see the swing done is on the BROOKS KUBIK video. To start, you need a good dumbbell. You are going to try to get the form first so start light. Now stand over the dumbbell with the bell between your legs and your feet spread a little wider than shoulder's width. Reach down and grab the bell with one hand bending your knees. (Don't worry about which hand to start with, you will train them both.) Keep your hand right up next to the front plates. Now, keeping your arm straight, take the bell up to your waist and let it swing back between your legs to get some movement. Then swing it up over your head keeping your arm straight the whole time. Putting your other hand out to your side can help you keep your balance. Repeat these steps with your other hand. I don't recommend doing reps because your form starts to suffer. It is very important to always keep good form even if it means using lighter weights.

The one arm clean and press is actually two one arm movements in one, the clean and the press. You can train them together or separate. I sometimes separate them depending on how I feel or if I'm training for a certain contest. This movement starts similarly to the swing except you don't swing the weight. Instead you clean the weight to the shoulder, get your balance, and then press it overhead. Now a little warning, it sounds easier than it is. The form has to be good on both the clean and the press. In the press, you should lay back a little because it helps keep the bell stable. I'm not a big rep guy with this one either but you can do more than the swing. I would say do no more than five reps and keep tight. If you just press, have someone hand you the weight and keep tight all the way up and down.

The one hand snatch is next. I personally am no good at this one and to work at it to feel comfortable with the weight I am using. I find that this is a great movement to make you stronger but it is a bear and I would not say it is for everyone. It is really hard if you are tall or have long arms. It is almost like a regular snatch, but again, you start over like the other two movements, the swing and the clean. The balance you need to get heavy weights s great so start light and be careful. Make sure you get under the weight and control it.

The last movement is the bent press. I tried this movement about one year ago and found it not only awesome for body power, but it trains the core of your body like crazy. This will help you build a stable, strong middle and help get some flexibility. Now, I do this with a dumbbell from he floor and start the same as the other movements. I know that some people start the bent press differently and that is cool, but I like to keep everything in the center of my core to always keep control. Now once you get it to your shoulder, start to press and as you start to press, start to bend away from the bell. As it goes up at the end, you should be bent at the waist with the bell over you. This movement is going to help your core and you will get sore. This is a movement that can be done for reps but keep the form tight and focus on each rep.

Now, one arm movements are great, and on their own could be a session. I'd like to add them to my training. I feel that they are great for building a good stable core and they will work you very hard. Sets are up to you. I like to keep them in the context of my training at the time. I have done twenty sets of singles on the swing trying to find a top weight. I find they help now that I have started back into martial arts because I grapple and working on balance is important. Try one arm training in your program. Good luck, train hard.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Get a Grip - By Randy Roach


Looking back well over a hundred years at the emergence and growth of the fitness industry it is amazing to see the breadth of equipment that has evolved into the crazy market we see today. There have actually been some very effective tools going right back to the dawning of the basic gymnastic apparatus, to early dumbbells, kettlebells, indian clubs, cable expanders, followed later by specialty benches, cable pulleys and finally the emergence of full exercise machines beginning in the 1950s with Harold Zinkin’s Universal Gym and then exploding in the 1970s with variable resistance machines thanks to Arthur Jones and Nautilus. Nonetheless, the capstone for what we know as progressive resistance training is, has been, and probably always will be   the good, old fashioned BARBELL.  It is the instrument that constitutes the competitive strength sports of weightlifting and powerlifting and no doubt the first tool used by most beginner bodybuilders throughout the 20th century.

Over the past 30 years, the barbell has become somewhat forgotten amongst the myriad of exercise gear that has come to saturate the fitness market.  Regardless of the excuses and pseudo rationale for migrating to and even leaping at the latest exercise contraptions and methodologies, nothing over the past century has come close to building the level of muscle as the barbell.   Needless to say, the barbell has unfortunately been all too often relegated to the corner rack due  to fear, injury or simply just boredom.

It is within this growing void that I was very pleased to learn that Tim Fitzpatrick has shone some light with his great effort in resurrecting the barbell through his T-Grip Barbell company.  T-Grip has introduced a line of bars from standard to Olympic size that offers various hand grip orientations and spacing.  I became aware of these bars through world champion bodybuilder, Boyer Coe, who had mentioned that he now prefers a neutral grip (palms facing each other) for more shoulder comfort.  

I have been training for over 4 decades and have been involved in building some equipment myself for a good number of those years.  I have always been keen and excited over custom bars for variety and getting around anatomical anomalies. I know what is involved in building custom tools and it takes a lot of precision and cost.  I jumped at the opportunity to acquire a unique barbell from someone who specialized in that particular craft such as what Tim was doing at T-Grip Barbell.

My only dilemma was that I could not decide on just what bar I wanted.  T-Grip offers a variety to choose from.  I was looking at three barbells.  The first was a seven foot Olympic size bar with a 23” neutral grip.  The second bar offered two neutral grips with the first at 19” apart and the second at 25”.  There was yet a third option that also had two grips built into its design.  Like the second bar the grip widths were set at 19” and 25” but were angled at 45 degrees from neutral.  As mentioned, I knew the cost involved in producing this level of bar and I thought his prices were extremely reasonable for what he was offering, I also liked the fact that he built them right in the United States.  I bit the bullet and bought all three barbells.

Bringing them up to Canada did add significant additional costs, but after receiving the bars I had absolutely no regrets.   The bars were totally impressive and between the three there were just so many perfectly placed grip options for joint comfort.    The way the bars are constructed there are even additional grips besides the neutral and angled positions.  In fact, if asked to choose just one bar, I still haven’t determined for sure just which one I would take.  A client who had recently injured his shoulder came to try the bars and with his very first angled grip selection he found he had no pain in that movement.  He is also a professional machinist with his own company and he immediately commented on the quality and appearance of these custom barbells.  He was very impressed with how perfectly the TIG welding was stitched to the bars.  My own welder made similar comments on the quality of the T-Grip products.

With that level of quality it was inevitable that the TGRip bars have made their way throughout the industry  from the likes of bodybuilding legend Lou Ferrigno to the harcore camps of powerlifting.  In fact, Powerlifting USA in acknowledging the growing popularity of neutral grip exercise stated the following on the versatility of the bars:

“The T-GRIP BARBELLS were designed with certain curves that contour to the body of every person which will enable you to perform certain movements and exercises with complete comfort, balance and stability.  The bars are crafted with the highest quality and can handle a lot of abuse and more weight than can be lifted by any human.  The T-GRIP BARS are great for powerlifting, bodybuilding, post rehabilitation, sport specific training, injury prevention and all around weight lifting, health and fitness.” 

The bars have also earned great reviews in the IHRSA trade showpublication, Flex, and labeled “Gear of the Month” by the popular Muscle & Fitness magazine.  The bottom line is that for any level of lifter these unique custom bars add some fun and variety to the training routines.  However, as a trainer, these tools are invaluable when dealing with a clientele varying drastically in shapes, sizes, and injuries.  It is my professional opinion that any commercial gym or private training facility is incomplete without them and greatly short changing their equipment arsenal!  Do your training a great service and check the variety of bars and cable attachments offered at www.tgrip.com,

Randy Roach,
Trainer and author of Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors

A Magnificent Grip on Pulldowns! - By Randy Roach


With over 40 years of  interaction within the bodybuilding and exercise
industry, I had for some time come to believe that there really wasn’t
anything all that new and exciting  in the realm of resistance strength
training.  Many gizmos, most of little use, had come and gone over the
decades.  The tried and true muscle building tools that emerged from the
pioneering gyms of the 20th century slowly anchored themselves through time
into the hearts of the hardcore lifters, especially with improvements via
advanced engineering and expanding technologies.  Rarely at this point after
years of tuning this equipment do you encounter innovation of any real
noteworthiness,  let alone a revolutionary evolution in design.   Rarely.

In early spring of 2014 I was sharing with former Natural Mr. USA, Josh
Trentine, about these beautifully built neutral and angled grip full Olympic
size barbells manufactured by Tim Fitzpatrick of TGrip Barbell
(
www.tgrip.com).  I was also updating  him on some new triceps and lat
pulldown  bars I had just purchased.  Regarding my cable bars he simply
emailed, "I hate to break the news but I have something that's going to ruin
all of your other lat bars forever.  Enjoy while you can."  I more or less
brushed off his statement as exaggeration, but Josh typically wasn't prone
to such assertions without just cause so  he did pique my interest.
Nonetheless, in the back of my mind I did believe I was going to experience
just another  pulldown bar that would be relegated  to a growing collection
which was slowly migrating into my fruit cellar.

Coincidently, during that exact time I had been conversing with a seasoned
trainer, Leon Sohn out of St Louis, Missouri. We had been discussing each
other’s equipment preferences extensively for hours.  Out of appreciation,
Leon generously purchased for me as a gift what he referred to as a "MAG"
bar which again was yet another pull-down bar probably destined for my fruit
cellar - or so I believed.

Surprisingly, the bar arrived rather quickly considering that it had to cross
 the Canadian border .  The first thing that I noticed was that this so-
called "MAG" bar did not resemble anything like I expected.  The traditional
lat pulldown bar has decades of visual recognition and most probably
wouldn't even know what  the MAG bar was or what to do with it.  Being
blind coupled with the fact that there wasn't a single piece of round bar to
grip  took me a moment to properly orientate the apparatus and figure out
just what exactly I was holding on to.

What I did have in my possession was a Maximum Advantage Grip (MAG) pulldown
bar manufactured by Tom Barton of Barton Innovations.  The hand grips were
definitely very unique.  As mentioned, this MAG bar had no standard round
bars to grasp and I was immediately enticed to go downstairs to the gym and
see how it felt and how it performed in action.  Leon had sent me one of seven bars
with his choice being Tom's medium width (22"), neutral grip (palms facing
each other) bar.

The movement was amazing!  The Maximum Advantage Grip was able to actually
place more emphasis on the back muscularture by diminishing the use of the
arms.   The bodybuilders of old use to get close to this by wrapping their
palms and thumbs up high on the standard round bar, but Tom had successfully
nailed this down with his unique MAG bar grip.  The best way to describe the
handles would be a total palm oriented grip somewhat like pulling on the
edges of two specially contoured 2” by  6"  pieces of lumber.  I immediately
moved the bar over to my cable row whereupon I received the same feel of a
very strong grip again minimizing arm action, thus placing more on the
targeted back muscles.  I was very impressed to say the least.  This bar was
fantastic!  It literally adds yet another dimension by becoming a union
between body and machine as a very intuitive lady client of mine pointed
out: 


The bar simply felt good and was a natural extension of my body rather than
a bar I was wrestling with.  The bar assisted me in doing the movement and
in achieving my weight/rep goal.  I thought less about 'form' and was able
to experience the feeling of success and motivation to do more.   



I immediately emailed Leon thanking him for this awesome gift.  I had no
idea what the bar cost nor did I care.  I took a chance the next day which
was a Saturday to contact by phone Barton Innovations.  I was surprised when
Tom himself picked up and took the call on what I figured would be his day
off.  I wanted to tell him how enamored I was with his bar and that I wanted
the remaining six bars regardless of cost.  In my opinion, his products are
very reasonably priced considering the technology, quality, and
functionality compounded with his steadfast stance on personally
manufacturing in the United States, which also appealed to me
philosophically.

Tom Barton is a veteran in the Iron Game industry with a background in
powerlifting going back to the 1970s.  When I asked how he came up with the
idea for his amazing grips he told me that way back he wondered why he could
do more pull ups when jumping up and performing them off roof rafters than
when grabbing a standard round bar.   The concept and products began their
physical evolution beginning in 1985 and he patented his intellectual
property in 1996.  His bars experienced some variations before he settled on
the current models in 2009.

As mentioned, Leon had sent me the medium width, neutral grip MAG bar.  I
received two more bars from Tom Barton with the medium width (22” from middle
finger to middle finger) one with a pronated (overhand) grip and the other
with a supinated (underhanded)) grip.  Both those grips were pronated and
supinated 45 degrees off a straight bar.   Tom also sent me  three bars with
the exact same grips but narrower having a width of 5" between middle
fingers.  The seventh and final bar was a 38" wide pronated grip.

All seven bars were bang on even the two I was skeptical about, both the
wide and narrow pronated grips.  I just wasn't  fully confident of those
widths for that grip orientation.  However, Tom obviously knew his business
as both bars are amazing with the narrow version being probably the favorite
for most who have tried them all at my facility thus far.

Unfortunately it has become very difficult to express true sincerity  over
the quality and functionality of an excellent product line in an industry
long over-saturated with such extensive hyperbole.  It seems as though
anything new entering the game is now accompanied with marketing hype so
over-the-top it can often surpass skepticism, leaving one nauseated.
Nevertheless with that said, I am more than willing to stake whatever
credibility I have by stating  that Tom Barton's MAG bars really are that
good!

With his numerous years in the business, Leon Sohn had a similar disposition
as myself:



I first saw the Mag bar on Dante Trudel's popular Dog Crap website,
Intensemuscle.com.  I am very skeptical about claims and view most  of what
I read as just excessive 'marketing.'  I honestly was not expecting it to be
anything except a substitute once in a while for my conventional handles.
When I received one of the bars and used it I was totally jazzed.  It works
so much better than a regular attachment.  I was very happy that it exceeded
my expectations.... by a lot!! Best cable attachments on the market in my
opinion!



When I then asked Josh Trentine if he had heard of the MAG bars it was in
fact these very bars he was referring to and he had planned to bring them from Ohio for
me to experience.  Again, he was emphatic in his own promotion by stating,
“The bars are genius. Best bars I’ve ever used...Everything else ever is a
waste next to those!"  Josh is not only a champion bodybuilder, he is an
equipment expert and manufacturer who also happens to be a physiotherapist.
The ergonomics of the MAG bars inspired Josh to write an extensive article
on exercise movement synergy and its relationship to these wonderful tools
from Barton Innovations.

Tom Barton is well on his way in successfully accomplishing the formable
task of usurping the long standard rowing and pulldown tools with his
Maximum Advantage Grip bars.  Everyone who tries his products will want them
and it is simply a matter of time before his bars are pulling weight stacks
in thousands of gyms worldwide.  You might say that Tom is inevitably
building a MAGnificent grip on the strength and muscle building industry.
See his products at 
www.maxagrip.com.

Randy Roach,
Trainer and author of
“Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors"    

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Birthday Challenge - By Jim Duggan



I have always been a huge admirer of many of the legendary figures of the Iron Game. Men like John Grimek, Bob Hoffman, Jack LaLanne, Herman Goerner, Norbert Schemansky, and Bruno Sammartino to name just a few. I was fortunate in that the first commercial gym at which I trained, Bruno's Health Club, was dedicated to the premise of no nonsense, drug-free training. And, as I have written numerous times, the only equipment used was from York Barbell. And, even though I only trained at Bruno's for about five years, my appreciation for the idea of old time Physical Culture has only grown over the years. The stature of the legends that I listed above has only risen in the intervening years.

I remember reading about some of Bob Hoffman's strength-feasts, which usually coincided with his birthday. I also vividly recall some of Jack LaLanne's birthday feats, especially in his later years. In recent years, I have tried to honor the memory of Bob and Jack by trying various challenges on my birthday. This year's birthday was no different, except for the fact that I was turning fifty. A milestone. The big 5-0! Big deal. You see, age means almost nothing to me. I feel no differently now than I did ten years ago, when I turned forty. It was no big deal then, and it's no big deal now. I truly believe that age is only a number. Even when it comes to working out. Whether you are twenty, thirty, or fifty, there is only one way to train, and that is all-out. And, if you are familiar with the stories of the gentlemen that I mentioned at the beginning if this article, you will know that a little thing like getting older can not deter you from doing great things.

I wanted to make this birthday challenge special. I wanted to do several movements, combining an exercise I do regularly, a movement a do a little less often, and something that I rarely do. I came up with the following: Stone lifting-lifting a 180 Lb. granite stone to my shoulder. One-Arm Dumbbell Press with a 88 Lb. thick-handled dumbbell. And Anvil Curl using a 100 Lb. anvil. The idea was simple, starting with the granite stone, I would do five reps, then go immediately to the thick-handled dumbbell for five reps with each hand, then go straight to the anvil for five reps of curls. After the curls, I would rest about a minute then begin again for a total of ten sets. 50 reps of each ( yes it sounds trite, 50 reps on my 50th birthday, but it was the best I could come up with!)

Lifting stones is something I enjoy doing. I try to do various size stones every week or two during the warm weather months. Today, it felt easy at first. Maybe because I'm used to using heavier stones. I'm not sure, but, in any event, the stone was going up easy at first. Even the dumbbell presses went well. I use one if my shot loaded Dumbbells that I purchased years ago. I have it loaded with BBs to a weight of 88 Lbs.. I do the presses in strict fashion- no cheating, bending, or leg drive ( just like John Grimek always advocated.) the anvil was almost too easy at first, so I adjusted the reps. Instead of five reps of curls, I did ten. Incidentally, I almost never do curls. I couldn't tell you the last time I did curls in the gym ( I realize that this would sound blasphemous to a typical toner in a commercial gym, but I really do find them to be a drag.) Anyway, as the sets progressed, I felt strong until about the fifth set or so. After that, it became work. Especially the presses. It was not too hot outside, thankfully, so the heat did not play a factor in my workout. By about the eighth set, I was really fighting on the stone, and the presses. The curls went easy ( of all things, the one movement I never do was proving to be the easiest.) The final two sets were very hard work, as I tried to keep up the pace. My hands were particularly fatigued, especially having to clean a dumbbell with a 2-1/2" handle. But I was determined to keep my form strict. By the end of the last set, I felt exhausted, but oddly euphoric. I even decided to add one extra set of stone lifts, just for good luck. So my totals were as follows:

180 Lb. Granite Stone - 55 reps total

88 Lb. Thick DB - 50 reps

100 Lb. Anvil Curl - 100 reps

Not a bad workout. And, by the way, it took me a little less than ninety minutes to complete the whole thing. And aside from some soreness, and some nice abrasions on my forearms (courtesy of the granite stone), I seem to be no worse for the wear. And while none of us can stop the clock from ticking, there is no reason why we can't continue to train hard.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Natural Deadlift Training - By Jim Duggan


The Deadlift is one of the best movements that a person who is interested in getting bigger and stronger can do. Notice that I didn't say THE best. I truly believe that there is no best way of training, nor is there one best be-all-end-all exercise. There are many effective programs, which include a variety of quality exercises. The key is to work hard, and continually strive for poundage progression. If anybody tells you that they have the "best" way to train, then you have encountered a fool, or somebody who is trying to sell you a load of BS. Either way, ignore him/her, and find out what works best for you, work out your plan, expect to do a lot of hard work, and then DO IT. 

I've always enjoyed the Deadlift. When I was competing in Powerlifting, I enjoyed working hard to improve all three lifts, but for some reason, I seemed to enjoy the Deadlift more than the other two lifts ( Squat, and Bench Press.) and, as you can imagine, I've tried just about every type of routine over the years. The interesting thing is that I've had success with numerous different programs, which would seem to indicate that perhaps it wasn't the routine that I followed which was the reason for increased gains. Maybe it was the fact that I had a strong desire to improve. If you train with passion, desire, and hard work, then tremendous gains will accrue. 

So, for anyone wishing to add to their Deadlift, here a some movements which I have been using lately. Naturally, you must perform the movement itself. That goes without saying ( even though I just did say it.) However, you don't have to be a slave to regular barbell Deadlifts, especially if you are not training for a contest, and you are a somewhat experienced lifter. Trap Bar Deadlifts, or the more recent Hex Bar Deadlift, are excellent movements. Every gym should have a Trap/Hex bar. It's an excellent exercise, and it's a bit of a change of pace while it still approximates regular Deadlifting. Whether you train with high reps, medium reps, one set to failure, it doesn't matter. Try them all, and see what works best for you. Another variation that I particularly enjoy is Dumbell Deadlifts. I use the 2" Thick Dumbbells that I purchased for Ironmind Enterprises years ago. If I elect to do DB Deadlifts, then I will always use high reps. When I say high, I mean at least twenty, for one all-out set. This movement will also give you a terrific forearm workout, just so long as you don't cave in to weakness and use straps. Just say NO! to straps. For that matter, there is no reason to use a belt while training ( but that's a subject for another article.) 

As far as frequency of Deadlifting, I have always liked to do them once per week. I can't see how a natural lifter would be able to do Deadlifts more than that. I also prefer to Squat on the same day as I Deadlift, but some people can Squat one day, then Deadlift on a separate day. Again, you have to decide what works best for you. Please don't try to imitate what you might read in the so-called muscle mags ( in fact, do yourself a tremendous service and don't read those rags to begin with. They contain nothing of use for a drug-free trainee.) 

I do like to perform a couple of assistance exercises for the Deadlift. Any sort of rowing movement, whether it bent-over barbell rows, DB rows, or rows using a Hammer Strength ISO Row machine are an excellent to strengthen the back. Don't go crazy with too many sets. Just try to utilize good form, and try to push the poundage up. Another movement that I've always enjoyed doing is the "Good Morning" exercise. I realize that there are many people who cannot do this movement because of the very real chance of injuring themselves. You have to be careful how you perform this exercise, especially if you've never tried it before. Go slow, and see how it feels. Be honest with yourself, and if you're able to do it without pain in your lower back, then by all means include it in your training. I've never sustained a back injury from doing Good Mornings, so I include them in my workout. I've been using two sets of twenty reps. When I competed, I would go heavier and use lower reps, but the higher reps work just fine now. 

There is one last "assistance" exercise that I've been doing lately. I have a number of stones that I've purchased over the years. They range in weight from 180- 300 Lbs., are spherical, and made of granite. I got them from Roger LaPointe at Atomic Athletic. I will do the stones about once per week. I will simply go outside in my yard, do a few reps with the 180 pounder, then use the 220 Lb. Stone for my work sets. I'll just pick it up, then shoulder it, then drop it, and repeat several times. The most total reps I'll do is 12-15. I realize that not everybody has access to granite spheres, but they do make for a unique, and intense, "finisher." Incidentally, the Stone workouts are contingent upon there being dry weather, as wet soft ground plus stone workouts equals huge craters in the backyard! 

There you have it, basic exercises to improve your Deadlift. Even if you're not competing in powerlifting, increasing your poundages on the Deadlift will lead to your entire body becoming stronger.


Friday, July 4, 2014

A Review of Bob Whelan's Book: Super Natural Strength - By Jim Duggan

"An excellent compilation of articles written by one of the most respected strength coaches in the field. The book is easy to read, and cuts through a lot of the bs that so frequently appears either in books, or online. "Maximum" Bob has been training people, and writing about training for a long time, but his writing never gets old- it only serves to motivate you even more to train hard. Whether you're a beginner, or if you've been training for a while, this book will provide excellent training information that you will be able to use over and over. Good information never gets old. Unfortunately, common sense isn't very common when it comes to training, nevertheless, Bob is able to present his ideas in a clear, easy to read style. It should be part of every trainee's library."

Buy On Amazon


Thanks a lot Big Jim! - Bob

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Discover the Champion in You - By Bill Simanovich Jr.

Many readers may have wondered what Discovering the Champion in You means. To me being a Champion isn't just about winning an athletic event and/or contest. Being a Champion is not necessarily about being the "best" at something. Ultimately, being a Champion is making the most of the ability that our Creator has endowed you with. To reach our potential in strength training, making the most of our ability, we must keep several points in mind.

You were created for a purpose. You are not here on this earth by accident, nor did you evolve from green slime or something of the sort. God made you for a reason, with abilities that are unique to you. Some may find this as "preaching" or of little importance, but I can only give you the truth. To do otherwise would be denying what has happened in my own life. This is a key point. If you see your self as just merely "being" here by chance or circumstance you can not have the peace, strength, and resolve as someone knowing that their life has meaning and purpose. With this in mind, when you train you must train with passion, purpose, and desire to reach your genetic potential that was given to you. While we classify bodytypes by ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph, these descriptions only give us an indication of muscular potential. Why not train in such a way as to reach your genetic limits, as no one can predict completely what they are, except God himself. I doubt that anyone has completely reached their maximum potential, as no one always eats just right, sleeps just right, trains just right, etc.. I've personally witnessed people with great potential for strength training never progress and others with seemingly little potential transform their bodies to points that are unimaginable. The point here is control what you can control, and don't make excuses about your lack of progress. Everyone can improve and make quite noticeable changes in body composition if they give the proper effort. Will everyone be a champion bodybuilder, powerlifter, strongman, etc.? Of course not; thank God! Most of today's "champions" are drug infested, liars, charlatans, and cheats. Being a true Champion is using whatever potential God gave you and doing your part by taking it to the limit!

You must train hard, harder than you can ever imagine. I know, I know. You train hard. It may be this is not a problem with you, however even veteran trainers need to reevaluate their efforts from time to time. Think to yourself, did I take it to momentary muscular failure on that last set of squats? You do have the ability and strength within you to accomplish much more than you could ever imagine. I can personally identify as I began competing in powerlifting three years ago. I first went to a meet to watch my brother and saw guys lifting weights I never thought I could do. Then I thought to myself, "if they can do it, I can do it." You see, these lifters weren't any bigger, built better, or even stronger. I just had never been in a competition or focused on competing with other lifters. This experience was a catalyst, a jolt if you will, and soon I was competing and lifting weights heavier than I had witnessed at that first meet I went to watch. The bottom line is to not limit yourself, and in my estimation hard effort is the key ingredient to successful weight training. Throw out much if not all the discussion about supplements, drugs, the latest equipment and focus on effort. Commit to training harder than you ever have, and then push a little harder.

You must never quit. As a Champion you must determine that you will not quit and you will not surrender. You are on a mission, someone with a purpose, remember? You see, what many people lack today is commitment. We face a little opposition and we retreat. Many millionaires went broke before they became millionaires, many top athletes had to walk on to teams, overcome devastating injuries, and had to be cut from teams before they accomplished their goals. The beauty of weight training is that it's largely in your control. No one else can lift for you, eat for you, or sleep for you. Plainly said, excuses are for losers, just as arrogance is for losers. I don't care where you've been or what you've been through, anyone can improve and make the decision to not give up. Something that I try to remind myself is that there are people all over this world with disabilities and illnesses that would cherish the joy of training hard. Their goal may be to just walk unassisted or to speak a few words fluently. How dare we moan and cry, "I'm too tired, I'm too busy, I can't." Learn to be thankful that you have the health to train. Never ever, ever quit; you must commit!

You must train smart. With all this talk of intensity, desire, and passion sometimes we can forget to train smart. I hesitated and almost didn't include this section of the article for fear of giving people an excuse. However, there are times that intensity may have to take a back seat. Let me explain; if you have an injury it would not be smart or prudent to train so hard that you are basically "throwing gasoline on a fire." I can personally attest to this as I recently suffered a shoulder injury, having injured myself weight training for the first time. Even with my experience, for a while I tried to "work through it." This was not training smart, and I further aggravated the injury. My body was telling me to rest this shoulder, and I didn't listen. Now I'm rehabbing the injury. During this rehab period, am I training as heavy or as hard as I can with this shoulder? Of course not. During this rehab period am I training my legs with alternate movements i.e. leg presses, calf raises that don't affect my shoulder, hard and heavy? Of course! You see, an injured shoulder is not a reason to give up or an excuse to not hit other areas of my body to the maximum. Remember, control what you can control. Along with training smart, work around any structural imbalances and chronic injuries or disabilities. Again, these are not to be used as excuses, but you are to utilize common sense. I hope I've conveyed this clearly for you to train smart, but to never ever make illegitimate excuses not to train with 100% intensity. Finally, training smart means learning everything you can about productive strength training, nutrition, cardio, flexibility, etc.. Over my training career I read countless articles, journals, magazines, etc.. Much of it was garbage, but this even served the purpose of giving me discernment between fact and fallacy, who to listen to and who to not, etc.. I truly believe that a Champion asks questions, and wants to continually learn more; this is training smart.

Try putting these principles into practice and see if they help your training. Sometimes even reading what we already know or believe strengthens our resolve and gives us additional focus.

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on July 8, 2002

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nick McKinless Squats 405 x 20 reps



"Bob, ... that's high bar, below parallel, just a belt. Been chasing this for 20 years. It's not often you hit lifetime goals in training. Ever since I heard about 20 rep squats well over 20 years ago I have wanted to do this feat of strength. Last week I failed with 17 reps. This week I took a little more time and got all 20. As it happens I didn't feel great going into this workout. I was tired from a long week of work, driving in and out of London and not getting much sleep. I haven't trained since last weeks attempt though and I think my back was fully recovered. This is the end of this successful and enjoyable phase of training to push my squat to new heights. Training is simple but it is not easy. I am grateful that I can still train this hard after 30 years under the Iron." -Nick

Great job Nick! Congrats!

Most Steroid Users Not All That Impressive - By Zac Davenport

In my experience from all the years I’ve been training in bodybuilding and strength training one of the biggest misconceptions is that anybody who happens to use steroids is impressively strong ... from what I’ve seen this is a myth I’ve seen this time and time again.

People will approach me saying look at the size of this guy every week in the gym I train in. Without fail the same people will say the same things about the local freaks but to the ignorant mind I suppose it can be excused as the youth of today haven't got a chance. While me and my friend train old school hard core we pick maybe four basic exercise such as the bench press squats barbell rows and some ab work then across the way some big guys who are obviously taking something are in the corner doing for instance if its Monday. Which for some reason seems to be international chest day their doing cable cross overs with weights my grandmother could do and she's been dead 15 years.

Bench press with terrible form normally with two 20kg plates only bouncing off their chests and letting the weight control them not the other way round. Along with dumbbell flyes with relatively lights weights I look over and see one of these not so impressive people watching our squatting poundages with eyes that look like they are going to pop out of their head if they are so strong with their drug induced physiques why would they be taking such a keen interest in our basic so called inferior workout. But another thing we also noticed and to our amusement they are actually big in the torso area. But and this is a big but have spindly legs like a sparrow so all this time they have been concentrating on their mirror muscles they have neglected their legs. Well if they do happen to train their little legs they must only use the machines. No squats. Like only the leg press lying leg curls or the leg extension.

This is the thing I can't understand because the drug using fraternity which is the bodybuilding elite of today have deluded the minds of young trainees who take steroids to use split routines and don't put the effort in to train natural and increase their workout poundages over time. It seems in terms of training knowledge we really do need to go back 50 to 100 years and learn about solid training ... more is not better ... more brief intense workouts is what its all about something I bet the drug users of today don't seem to understand. There they are in near enough every gym in the world posing in the mirrors on their phones and trying to look pretty if they happened to put that much effort in to their training and re-evaluated their training then perhaps they wouldn't have to take short cuts

That point I'm trying to make here my friends is that you can take all the drugs and take all the short cuts you want. But nothing can replace hard work on the basic compound exercises that the strength trainers of old built their impressive physiques on. Men such as Reg Park, Steve Reeves and not forgetting Eugene Sandow and what did all these men have in common? That's right they were all drug free and used basic exercises like the squat military press and deadlifts to build up their strength and physiques with hard work. At the end of the day folks its your choice if you wan't to use short cuts but if you wan't my advice just don't do it and have a bit of pride about yourself and take the natural route you might just surprise yourself.

Editors note: Your message is good. Steroids ALONE don't work. You still have to do the work. Most steroid users lack character or they wouldn't use drugs in the first place. This lack of character is also what makes many of them look for every short cut in training as well.




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