Stitcher Radio

Stitcher Radio
click logo - STITCHER

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Designing An Effective Training Program - By Jim Duggan

One of the most important things for anybody who trains with weights is to gear his/her training toward his own particular needs and requirements. Naturally, needs, requirements, and desires will vary from individual to individual, but there are some general patterns all trainees can utilize regardless of age or goals.

For those who are younger, and just starting out, the main desire is usually to build muscle mass. Think about how you felt when you first wrapped your fingers around a barbell. If you're like most people, you wanted to get big and strong. Perhaps your desire for size and strength was tied to playing football, or wrestling, or some other sport. Maybe you were exposed to a major strength athlete via a magazine, or other form of media, and you wanted to emulate him. Whatever the reason, most young trainees will lift weights frequently, intensely, and religiously. Further, since they are young, they will usually succeed on an accelerated program due their bodies' ability to recuperate quickly.

On the other hand, someone who is out of school and has entered the workforce may become aware that he is not in the shape he was in during his school days. This person is not considered old ( or even middle-aged) but due to career and/or family responsibilities, he might have fallen out of shape. It's easy to gain weight and become careless insofar as it relates to maintaining healthy habits. Lack of exercise combined with a poor diet will cause bodily changes which will inspire many people to attain and maintain a better degree of fitness. The desire for muscular size might be gone ( then again, maybe not!), but an increased awareness of strength and health will often provide the impetus to "get back in shape." 

Older trainees, those over the age fifty, are another group with unique goals. As we get older, we become increasingly aware of our health and any physical shortcomings. Years of overeating, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking are the causes of many of the problems associated with getting older. Some people will embark on a training program as a remedy for years of bad habits. After all, we have been told for years that it is never too late to begin working out to improve yourself. And I believe that to be true.
Persons over the age of seventy, while considered to be older in the general sense of the word, can still exercise. Naturally, the desire for increased muscle mass will be replaced with a realistic expectation that a sensible weight-training program, combined with a moderate program of walking and/or stretching will bring about gains in fitness, flexibility, and balance. Stronger bones, flexible muscles, and a general sense of physical well-being will offset many of the infirmities of the older years.

When it comes to older trainees, those over the age of fifty or those who have not exercised in a long time, one of the biggest mistakes one can make is attempting to do too much, too soon. The idea that you can handle the same sort of workload that you did when you were younger can be dangerous. Not only can you become discouraged and lose interest, you can actually cause injury to yourself. Extreme ambition and enthusiasm can cause put a sudden halt to an older trainee's progress. 

Another potential pitfall is that, many times, enthusiasm and desire begin to wane. The trainee begins to lose interest. They may train less frequently, or might even stop completely. This phenomenon is usually associated with New Year's resolutions and the countless number of people who set out to work out, diet, and dedicate themselves to a program of healthy living. Regardless of the fact that they might have spent the previous eleven months being sedentary and lifting nothing heavier than a fork. With most trainees, the desire to get back in shape is all the incentive one needs. However, after a few days, or weeks, the trainee will become discouraged. This is especially true if progress is not immediately forthcoming. 

When designing your program, you should select exercises that will develop the major muscle groups. One should strive to create a common-sense program consisting of exercises to develop the musculature of the legs, back, shoulders, arms, and abdomen. Choose movements that you can perform safely, and effectively. Do not blindly follow someone else's routine. Nobody knows your body like you. Educate yourself and learn what works for you. More importantly, learn what doesn't work for you. Everybody is different. By all means, do NOT try to copy the routine followed by some steroid bloated so-called champion. You see these all the time in the muscle comics. Also, do not fall into the silly trap of "body part" training. That's when you train one bodypart for a god-awful number of sets in a workout. The following day, you would do the same thing only this time a different is trained. What nonsense! Anybody could plainly see that you are not allowing your body sufficient time to recover if you are lifting every day. Use a sensible program of moderation. Train two to three times per week. Allow yourself adequate rest and recuperation. Follow a healthy diet. And, of course, train consistently. And progressively. It's actually quite simple for anyone who has been following this website to develop an effective program. There are many routines to evaluate and try. Train intelligently, progressively, and safely.

Monday, October 24, 2016

What is your training goal? - By RJ Hicks

Where do coaches start when designing a new training program? The biggest difference between working out and training is ones’ plan of attack. Whether it be a new client, athlete, or the entire team, the number one question to ask is “what is your training goal?”. If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know if you ever get there? It is difficult to achieve ones’ dream without a picture in mind, just as it is challenging to design a strength training program with undefined goals. Once you have a goal, an appropriate plan can be put into place with productive training on the way.

Every goal should be unique to the client or athlete, just as no client or athlete is the same. Medical history, experience, lifestyle and occupation or sport all play a factor in determining or redefining one’s goals. No one method will work for each individual, which is why it is important as a coach to develop a large tool box. Do not get boxed into certain cults or camps in the strength and conditioning field. Develop that large tool box and be open minded to what other strength coaches have been successful with. There are many different methods of strength training that can fit under the same principle umbrella. Do not be afraid to use different methods of strength training responsibly.

There are many great methods that can be used based off the client or athlete’s goals. If you were training a Powerlifter with the goal of reaching the highest 1 rep max possible, one method to use is a low rep pyramid scheme with mainly barbells, covering the “big 3” (deadlift, squat, bench). The rep range for low rep pyramid training in the “Big 3” should stay 5 reps and under since in competition powerlifters never do more than 1 rep. A lower volume higher rest scheme should be implemented to ensure the powerlifter recovered enough to lift the most amount of weight each time. A barbell should be used in most exercises since mastering movements on a barbell takes practice to develop that specific skill that the sport demands. This is one great way to train a powerlifter, however not all trainees are powerlifters and would benefit the most from this training.

If you were training a basketball team with athletes whose goal is to prevent injury while gaining strength and some metabolic conditioning, High intensity strength training at one set to failure with all hammer strength machines is a great idea. Having the athletes train the full body with low volume and low rest at one set to failure will improve strength and metabolic conditioning. The use of machines is advantageous for athletes with abnormal body types such as most basketball players. Proper use of a good Hammer Strength leg press machine or a Squat Pro for a 6’5 athletes with narrow hips is safer and more productive then having the athlete barbell squat. The infrequent and short training sessions will give the athletes more time to develop their individual sport skills needed for playing basketball. High intensity strength training with 1 set to failure is great for some athletes, however it is not realistic to have everyone be able to train to momentary muscular failure.

Let’s say you’re training the average Joe who works 40 hours a week and wants to be a stronger more muscular version of him or herself, a Hardgainer approach that Stuart McRobert lays out perfectly in “Brawn” is a fantastic method. A twice a week lifting approach where the full body is trained each week with safe basic compound exercises for 2-3 sets. Long training cycles with small adjustments based off of individual performance is used with poundage progression, being the main goal, with short layoffs to cycle intensity. Infrequent strength training fits well into the 40-hour work week and allows for adequate recovery from a hectic schedule and for the average Joe to actually train. A realistic training intensity can be achieved where the trainee trains hard, yet are not forced to obliterate his/her self every workout. This allows for the trainee to build up to harder to more challenging training, while staying motivated. While, flexibility in training equipment and exercises permits the trainee to train at most gyms or at home. The list goes on: Dinosaur training for young fit motivated athletes, Olympic lifts for Olympic lifters, super slow for those with injuries or love to feel “the burn”, the tier system in a team atmosphere. All of these training methods has their place in strength training and should be matched properly with the client or athletes goal.

Countless coaches see great success in their clients and athletes with the practical application of many strength training methods. No two coaches have to be the same to be successful, just how there is no one right mode or method for everyone. Many methods of strength training can be productive as long as it fits ones’ strength training principles and matches the client’s goal. So the first step to deciding the proper strength training method is to ask “what is your goal?”

The Value of Persistence in Training - By Jim Duggan

One of the best things about past issues of the old muscle magazines is the tremendous amount of quality information found within the pages of these treasures. Yes, it is enjoyable to "walk down memory lane, " and read about the champions of yesterday. It is particularly satisfying to revisit the magazines from a specific period. Perhaps look at the results from the Olympics of the 1970s, and see what the lifters of forty years ago were doing. Or maybe re-read an old article featuring a favorite athlete, or author. Maybe the old advertisements will bring back memories of some of the products that we all purchased in our quest for size and strength. Hi-Proteen, Super Hi-proteen, Energy, etc., are among the classic products that those of a certain age will look back upon with fond memories. Whatever the reason for reading the classic magazines, it always comes down to good, solid training information. Quality information knows no expiration date. It never goes out of style. And, of course, when I say classic magazines, I am referring to such stalwarts as "Strength and Health," "Muscular Development, " and Peary Rader's "Ironman."

One particular magazine that I have recently read is the November 1969 issue of Muscular Development. Reading through this issue wasn't exactly a trip down memory lane for me, as I was five years-old when this issue hit the newsstands. But, forty-seven years later, the editorial in this issue contains words of wisdom that could benefit anybody training today. John Grimek's editorial was titled "The Value of Persistence in Training." While the editorial itself only contained about four or five paragraphs, within each one are words of advice from which we can all benefit.

Within the first few sentences are the words: "Too many beginners, mostly youngsters, who take up training do so with a zealous fervor only to give it up after a few months simply because they did not make the progress they had hoped to achieve." We've all experienced slow gains, frustration, plateaus, and other obstacles. But the most important thing is to never give up. Whatever your goals, and whatever your age, develop a plan, devise a system, and do it. Don't complain about not having time to train, or being tired, or too busy. Make it happen.

The second paragraph contains lines from an article that John Grimek had originally written in the 1930s for Strength and Health Magazine. It reads as follows:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful talents.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Mr. Grimek wrote that the author of these inspiring words was unknown. However, that is not true. The person who wrote these lines is none other than Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. And while historians and scholars will endlessly debate his strengths and weaknesses as a President, those of us fortunate enough to read this words will continue to be inspired by them for generations to come.

Mr. Grimek also wrote that there is a lesson to be learned from the above quotation. And, of course he was absolutely correct. He was correct back in 1969, and he is still correct today, in 2016. Persistence comes in many forms. Maybe it's Doug Hepburn, who was born with a deformity in his right foot (club foot). His leg never developed properly, but through sheer determination, he became the first person to ever Bench Press 500 Lbs., and was the strongest man in the world during the 1950s. Or perhaps Persistence is exemplified by the great discus thrower, Al Oerter, the first man to win four Olympic gold medals in one event. Al overcame a near fatal automobile accident prior to the 1960 Olympic games to win the gold, then four years later, he overcame a very serious ribcage injury to win gold again. Then there's Bruno Sammartino, the Living Legend. Bruno's early childhood was spent in the mountains of Italy, hiding from the Germans during World War II. Arriving in America at the age of fifteen, he was a very sickly child. As a teenager, he was literally a 98 Lb. weakling. But through sheer force of will, and hard work, Bruno became one of the strongest men the world has ever seen. Had he not dedicated his life to becoming one of the greatest wrestlers in history, he would have set lifting records that would have stood for the next century.

The last paragraph of John Grimek's editorial drives home the importance of being persistent in one's training. "Results are dependent on the effort one puts into his training and not the kind of program he is following." Basically, stop searching for that ever-elusive, magical, super-secret training program. Instead, follow a commonsense regimen consisting of hard work on the basics. Strive for poundage progression, give your body adequate rest and nutrition, and you will be on your way. For drug-related strength athletes, Persistence and determination will ensure that you will make gains in size and strength. While the gains you make might be more gradual than meteoric, they will last. And it is more advantageous to gain slowly, than by trying to put on 25 to 30 pounds within a few months.

I will conclude this article with the exact words that the great John Grimek used to end his editorial: "So persist and don't give up because the going gets tough. Success may be just around the corner, and who deserves it more than you? No one. That's why you should persist....you'll win out."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Death of America's Golden Age of Weighlifting - By Jim Duggan

When I was trying to decide on a subject to write about, I thought about the many articles I've written for both this website, and also "The Dinosaur Files." Most of the time, I write about different training ideas, programs, or actual workouts that I've used. But one thing stuck out in my mind: Every article I've written has been dedicated to the idea of getting stronger. In other words, LIFTING. And just about every person who has ever trained with weights has envisioned themselves hoisting massive poundages. And while not everyone has endeavored to compete in the various forms of competitive lifting, those of us who have graced the platform have had many champions to admire over the years. Given the sorry state of Olympic weightlifting in the United States today, it may be hard to imagine a time when American lifters were a dominant force. However, about sixty years ago, that was exactly the case. There truly was a "Golden Age" of American Weightlifting. And one of the biggest names of that era was Norbert Schemansky.

On Wednesday, September 7, 2016, Norbert Schemansky passed away at the age of 92. His death comes just five months after the death of another legendary American lifter, Tommy Kono, who passed away in April at the age of 85. These two gentlemen were two of the greatest lifters of all time. In fact, many lifting historians make a strong case for Tommy Kono being the greatest weightlifter of all time ( although, personally, I would make a strong case for John Davis, but that's another article.) In any event, for the United States to lose two of their greatest strength athletes within months of each other signifies the official end of a bygone era. And even though neither man had competed for over forty years, the legacy that each left behind will live on in the minds and hearts of all of us who love reading about strength, strong men, and physical culture.

One of my favorite books is "Mr. Weightlifting'" an excellent biography of Norbert Schemansky written by Richard Bak. It was written about ten years ago. The foreword was written by Al Oerter, another phenomenal strength athlete. If you can get your hands on a copy of this fine book, by all means do so. You will get a real appreciation for just how great an athlete Mr. Schemansky was, as well as an appreciation of his dedication and focus. He was the first weightlifter to win four medals ( one gold, one silver, two bronze.) He was a three-time world champion whose career spanned over twenty years. He got better- and stronger- as he got older, with best official lifts of Press-415 Lbs., Snatch-363 Lbs., Clean and Jerk, 445 Lbs.. What was even more remarkable was that, unlike today's sponsored athletes, he had to hold down a full-time job in order to raise his family. Imagine having to work for a living, while finding time to train, and still being able to compete with subsidized athletes from the old Soviet Union. A well-told story is about the time he returned home from the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. He had won the gold medal, yet there were no cheering crowds to greet him at the airport. In fact, he had to take a bus home. Can you imagine something like that happening in today's day and age?

There have been many articles written about his training, and the underlying theme has always been that Mr. Schemansky trained hard, and heavy on the basics. Heavy squats, pulls, and, of course, the lifts themselves. I remember reading one of his philosophies about training that stated that one shouldn't attempt maximum singles in the gym. Always strive to lift more in a contest, when it counts. I actually had pleasure of meeting Mr. Schemansky about twenty years ago. It was at the 1996 reunion dinner of the Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen (AOBS). He was being honored that year, and I actually asked him for his autograph. The word about Mr. Schemansky was that he was not exactly the most friendly guy in the world, and that he could be caustic and abrasive. However, I found that not to have been the case at all. He could not have been nicer or more gracious. And I still have the autographed program. Incidentally, I am not a big autograph collector. In fact, the only other autographs I have are from Bruno Sammartino, Al Oerter, John Grimek, and Chuck Noll. There is one more thing that I would like to mention about Mr. Schemansky. He was a veteran of World War II, and saw action in Europe fighting for our country. A member of the "greatest generation," as well as a member of the "Golden Age of American Weightlifting."

We might all benefit from closer study of the greats of the Iron Game. I've always thought that anybody signing up to train at a gym or health club should be required to read the biographies of some our Physical Culture legends. It's sad to say, but there are far too many people lifting weights today that have never heard of John Grimek, or Bob Hoffman, or John Davis, or "Mr. Weightlifting" himself, the great Norbert Schemansky. The would learn first-hand about hard work, dedication, and persistence. Three qualities that will go a long way in helping you succeed in strength training. Or any other endeavor.

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's In The Cards - By Jim Duggan

Health, fitness, and all-around conditioning are several components of an overall exercise plan that are often overlooked. Anybody who reads the articles on this website is definitely interested in building strength. We all have similar goals and interests. However, many strength athletes pay little, if any, attention to developing their cardiovascular fitness. Many times, trainees will neglect it completely, until it's too late. Good health often becomes an afterthought. I will readily admit that, when I was in my twenties, my training was centered completely on becoming stronger, especially on the three powerlifts. Lift heavy, eat a lot, rest. Repeat. Cardio work was considered an anathema. I suppose most persons who train fall into the same trap, especially in their younger years. It wasn't until I reached my thirties that my outlook changed, and I started to devote some time to developing some level of fitness.

I am not trying to turn anybody into a modern-day Jack LaLanne. Nor do I want to radically change anybodies general training philosophy. I am simply suggesting that a small amount of time devoted to improving one's health and fitness will pay big dividends over the course of a lifetime. Besides, you won't be able to lift heavy weights if you can't even lift yourself onto your feet without sweating profusely.

There are many ways to incorporate some cardio work into any exercise program. I'm not going to get into a discussion about running, jogging, swimming or the like, since this website is devoted to natural STRENGTH. But all persons interested in strengthening their bodies should perform some form of cardio, or aerobic, training. Especially if they are past the age of thirty. The choice is an individual one insofar as which form of aerobic exercise is best. Any exercise that you will be willing to do several times per week is the best exercise. Like I've said many times, you know your body better than anybody else. Be attuned to what works for you, and do it. Nevertheless, here are some ideas:

While I usually lift weights 2-3 times per week, I do some form of cardio on the other days. There are several exercises that I like to do. Probably the easiest is simply walking. That's right- picking 'em up and putting 'em down. You'd be surprised at the health benefits that you will accrue from this simple movement. I prefer to walk outside, in the fresh air. However, on inclement days I will substitute walking on a treadmill. I usually aim for about 2.5 miles. Please bear in mind that this is not the Powerwalking Program that popularized by Steve Reeves years ago. Although if you want to Powerwalk, by all means do so. But it isn't necessary. You can get great results from simple walking. Another form of aerobic exercise I like to do is the Stairmaster machine. It has two advantages that seem to benefit me. I can go at a good pace, without the pounding on my feet and ankles that would result from distance running. Those of you reading this who, like me, are in the heavier weight classes can relate. Another advantage of using a Stairmaster is that, as a fireman, climbing stairs is an all-too-familiar part of my job, and spending time on a Stairmaster is an excellent way to keep me in shape.

For those of you who simply can't- or won't - do any form of cardio training, there is an option. An option that can even include using weights, if you'd like. It's a way of training that's been around for many years. It's called the Deck of Cards workout. Wrestlers, martial artists, and other elite athletes have been using this workout for years. It's quick, easy, and the best part is that you do not need any special equipment. All you need is a deck of cards, and some imagination.

Here's how it works: Assign an exercise to each suit. Shuffle a deck of cards, then start drawing a card form the deck. Do the assigned exercise for the amount of repetitions designated by the number on the card. So, if you assigned Bodyweight Squats to Hearts, and you draw the Seven of Hearts, then you would do seven repetitions. Face Cards can be Ten, Aces are worth Eleven. You can either disregard the Jokers, or use them and assign any amount of reps you'd like. You can use any exercises you'd like. I workout that I've been doing recently is as follows:

Hearts= DB Press w/ 60 Lb. Center Mass Bells ( a new toy I recently purchased from Sorinex equipment. More on that in a future article.)
Diamonds= Headstrap w/ 85 Lbs.
Spades= Weighted Step-Ups
Clubs= Weighted Sit-Ups.

Your exercise possibilities are limited only by your imagination. You can also make it even more basic and use just two exercises, and assign one movement to the Red suits, and another one to the Black suits. You want to be able to get through the deck as quickly as possible. You can even time yourself, so that way you have a way of measuring your progress. The key is to force yourself to work hard and fast.

The Deck of Cards workout is an excellent way to increase your level of conditioning, as well as your fitness. I distinctly remember a quote by John McCallum from his Keys To Progress Book, which read: " Time spent improving your health is time well spent. Good health is your biggest asset." By making a few simple changes, you can reap the rewards of not only building your strength, but becoming more fit as well.

Friday, August 5, 2016

SPREADING THE FRAME IN THE FORMATIVE YEARS (AND BEYOND) - A LAYMAN'S PERSPECTIVE - By Todd Baisley



Much of strength and health focuses on muscles and strength. In the midst of that, perhaps a nod towards skeletal development would be worthwhile. After all, a set of 17" all terrain tires might look good on a full size truck, but not so good on a Honda Civic. While much of the frame broadens and thickens just from being under the iron, some exercises serve this purpose more than others.

One can also give a nod towards symmetry without automatically being tagged a bodybuilder. If a young man has a shallow rib cage, but wide shoulders and long arms, there is nothing wrong with forgoing wide grip pulling movements for a season. If a guy has huge hips, and no upper body, once again, it isn't a crime to stay with some real low rep squats, gentle and progressive, while focusing on the upper body till things even out. When he stands straight and true for his bride to be, he'll thank you!

To spread the shoulder girdle, I would put wide grip chins, front and back, at the top of the list. These should be done in a slow and controlled manner with a FULL range of motion. Don't bother blowing your rotator cuffs with the common kipping craze. You'll only get away with it for so long. Keep the chest out, back arched unless you want to diminish the effectiveness by half. Over the years, it has never ceased to amaze me how many guys have such little back development that do the right exercises, but with bad form. Couple the wide chins with some deadlifts or rows and it is a real winner. Looking back to the narrow scapula I had as a 143 lb. guy compared to my shoulder width two years later, after consistent wide chinning and rows, I am sold on this. And remember, while muscle comes and goes over the years, the frame you build stays pretty much the same.

For spreading the rib box, nothing beats the dumbbell pullover. Some guys do pretty well with a barbell as well. This is one of my great regrets in exercise selection, and probably helps explain my two dimensional appearance. Because I didn't "feel it" in the muscle, I thought it wasn't worth much. Many young guys make this same mistake. Don't be one of them. Keep a slight bend to the arms, take a deep breath, and sink into a good stretch while keeping the hips low. Patience and persistence will yield a couple inches on the chest in a few years when you're younger. It can be done when older, but it takes longer. This also arguably makes more room for the organs and potentially bigger motor under the hood, i.e. heart and lungs.

Squats are the well deserved and predictable choice for the lower body structure. The amount of growth hormone released into the system by squats is perhaps greater than any other exercise. Add to this the large amounts of weight your skeleton has to support, and it really contributes to a strong, solid frame. The carryover strength and athleticism for everything from a vertical jump, to driving opponents backwards in football or wrestling are noteworthy as well.

When training, surround these three worthy exercises with some heavy presses, curls, rows (upright or bent), dumbbell work, and some core work. I also recommend some neck work, especially bridging, but that is up to you.

For enduring muscle (not endurance muscle), the kind that won't disappear during a two week vacation or month lay off due to injury, build up to heavy weights and some lower reps. Pyramids up to a heavy single or double and 5x5 were my favorites. This winter, for the first time in twenty years, literally, I got a gym membership. For a change (and to try to help a couple nagging joints), my teen kids and I pummelled ourselves on a high volume, higher rep lifting routine. We're talking 20 sets of 12 to 40 reps, something I hadn't done in over twenty years either, but, hey, it was dark early and we were bored. After four months all of us hated working out and even I was surprised at how quickly the veiny, puffy muscle shrunk. Those three pounds I had put on through such toil were GONE when I took a couple weeks off.

On the flip side, when my brother and I first started training consistently, 30 years ago, we didn't own a bench so we built our three times a week full body routine around heavy military presses, frequently pyramiding up to a max lift. Though I can't claim much, my shoulders have never left me, even over extended layoffs. No one else in my family, besides my brother, has noticeable shoulders, so it isn't genetic. He can also still walk into Dick's Sporting Goods and side press a 90 pound dumbbell. It would be hard to overstate the role heavy, safe, lifting can play in the formative years for how one may look and be strong for the rest of their life.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Anvil and Stone - By Jim Duggan

Over the years, I have tried to challenge myself each year on my birthday. I remember reading about the legendary feats of Jack LaLanne, and also Bob Hoffman. They would each celebrate their birthday in a meaningful way. And for anybody who follows the ideals of Strength, Health, and Physical Culture, "meaningful" is a cheerful euphemism for working out brutally hard. And while I would never consider towing a flotilla of 70 rowboats during a mile-long swim with my hands shackled, I do try to come up with meaningful. And challenging.

One of my favorite ways of challenging myself is with Stones. Atlas stones have been a staple in Strongman Contests for many years. My first close encounter with stone-lifting was at the AOBS Reunion Dinner of 1999. It was there, at the old Downtown Athletic Club, that Steve Jeck put on an impressive display of stone-lifting. After the dinner, but before heading to Peter Luger's with Bob Whelan and Drew Israel ( yes, we went to dinner AFTER the dinner!) I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Mr. Jeck. It was then that I was inspired to get my hands on some granite atlas stones. To make a long story short, about a month or so later, a nice, brand new 220 Lb. Granite Sphere was delivered to my house. Over the years I have added to my collection to the point where I now am the proud owner of five spheres. They range in weight from 145 Lbs. to 300 Lbs. Each one has a specific use. The lighter stones are usually used for rep work, while the heavier ones are meant for maximal attempts. But even when my workout calls for a series of heavy singles with the heavier stones, the smaller ones serve a useful purpose for warming up. 

As far as Anvils are concerned, my collection is limited to two. For now. I have a 100 Lb., and a 165 Lb. Anvil. I was first introduced to anvil-lifting by Dr. Ken. I remember reading an article in an old issue of Muscular Development. Like all of his articles, it was well-written and contained a lot of quality training information. A few years later, I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Ken and join the Iron Island Gym. And, tucked away in a corner of the gym, was one of his anvils. That was the first time I had ever actually seen an anvil up-close and personal. Prior to joining Iron Island, the only anvils I had ever seen was on the old Warner Bros. cartoons when Wiley Coyote was trying to drop them on the Road Runner. There is no desert on Long Island where I live, so the Road Runner can breathe easily. I won't be trying to drop one on him. But I do like to use my anvils as a workout tool from time to time. Cartoons aside, I do remember reading somewhere that the anvil can be accurately described as the American manhood stone. Perhaps we don't have a history of stones like they do in Europe. But we definitely have a history with anvils. Incidentally, I would love to get a few more anvils, but they are quite expensive.

Anyway, getting to the workout. I had wanted to rep out with the 180 Lb. Stone for a while. My previous best was 80 reps, done over the course of 90 minutes or so. For my birthday, my goal was to hit 100 reps. The movement itself is quite simple: Lift the stone from the ground and shoulder it. Of course, actually doing it 100 times is something else entirely. My plan was to break it down over many sets. I would do anywhere from 5 to 12 reps with the Stone. I would then go inside and perform 15 Hindu Push-ups. I would then go to the 100 Lb. Anvil and, using my Neck Harness, do a set of 12-15 reps. After the neck work, I would rest about minute, then continue. So the workout itself looked like this:

180 Stone x 100 Reps
100 Lb. Anvil x 100 Reps
Hindu Push-Ups x 100 Reps

Upon beginning the workout, I was surprised that I was lifting the stone pretty easily. One of the problems I encounter is that when I drop the stone to the ground, it does roll around from time to time. The combination of hard ground, and spherical stone being dropped from shoulder height will cause the stone to roll around a bit. Of course, if the ground is soft, there will be the inevitable craters. Not good for the footing. There is also the issue of dirt and sweat. I did have to wipe off my forearms at regular intervals. The weather was hot and humid, but it didn't really affect me. I did try to keep hydrated. Of course I did not use a belt, gauntlets, or tacky. And, yes, my forearms took a beating  ( as they usually do when I do high-rep stone workouts.) I was very happy that I was able to maintain a good rhythm and strong pace throughout the workout. I was able to complete the entire workout in less than two hours. Afterward, I was completely sore, as one could imagine. 

While not everybody might have access to stones, we all are capable of challenging ourselves. Whether it be lifting weights, shouldering stones, running long distances, or swimming a mile with your hands shackled while towing 70 rowboats, we all have the potential to better ourselves. And while I may not be a Spring chicken at 52 years old, I am proud to say that I haven't let myself become old. Nor have I lost the desire to challenge myself.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Assistance Exercises for the Bench Press - By Jim Duggan

Bench Press assistance work consists of numerous exercises that involve a large number of muscle groups. The purpose of assistance exercises is to increase your Bench Press. If you are a competitive powerlifter, this means lifting as much as possible on the day of the contest. If you are not competing, but would simply like to add a few pounds to your Bench Press, a properly planned workout, with the proper assistance work, will help you add weight to the bar. Regardless of whether or not you compete, to make gains of size and strength, you must have a goal, and also a plan. There's an old saying that goes something like, "A goal without a plan is only a dream." This is true, not only in lifting, but in any worthwhile endeavor.

A competition Bench Press can be broken down into three phases. The first phase involves lowering the bar to the chest. Strong upper-back muscles and biceps help control the descent of the bar. By lowering the bar under control, you set up the initial drive off the chest. You want to control the bar, and not have it control you. If the descent is not under control, chances are you won't make the lift. The second phase of the lift consists of the initial drive off the chest to midpoint. Powerful pectoral muscles will blast the bar off the chest and send it on its way. The last phase is from the midpoint to lockout. Strong deltoids and triceps can mean the difference between a successful lift, and one that can't be completed. 

In order for you to develop an effective program, you must analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself. If you are strong off the chest, but your lockout is weak, then, naturally, you will select assistance movements that will strengthen the muscles involved in the lockout, i.e. the shoulders and triceps. Before I list some exercises, I would like to take a moment and talk about something very important. Safety. Do not attempt to do any type of heavy Bench Pressing without a spotter. This goes for the Bench Press and all its variations ( Incline Press, Decline Press, Close-Grip Bench Press.) Always have someone spotting you. If you can't find a spotter, then perform all your Benches inside a power rack. Personally, I think a power rack is the safest, and most effective, way to perform any Bench Press. 

The following is a list of exercises that I have found to be effective in improving the Bench Press. Naturally, assistance work does not take the place of the actual lift. You must consistently practice the actual movement in order to become a proficient lifter. And, yes, you should train the lift under contest conditions. Every rep should be done with a pause, even extension, feet flat on the floor. It would be absurd to train one way, and then compete under completely different conditions. Now, on to the assistance work:

1) Lockouts. These are done on a power rack. This will help with the final phase of the lift. Press the bar from the pins to the lockout position. You will eventually be able to work up to very heavy poundages. Several sets of low reps, done after your regular Bench Presses, should be sufficient.

2) Weighted Dips. Another effective movement for helping with the final lockout. Dips have gotten some bad press lately because of the potential for shoulder injury. This is one of those movements that might not be for everybody. If you have never tried them, start slowly. More importantly, do not pause for too long at the very bottom of the movement. If you can do them safely, try to add weight and work you way into doing sets of six.

3) Close-Grip Bench Press. This will strengthen and develop your triceps. This is an excellent movement. Take a close (about 6") grip, and work up to several sets of six to eight reps. You can also do these with an EZ Curl bar as a change of pace.

4) Incline Press. This movement can be done either with a barbell, or dumbbells. This is a good upper-pectoral developer. Utilizing dumbbells will help correct the problem of uneven extension. My friend and training partner, Larry Licandro, loved doing Incline Presses. He actually liked Inclines better than regular flat Benches. On the other hand, I rarely, if ever, used Inclines as an assistance movement. I would do them in the "off-season'" when there were no contests coming up. If I do them now, I usually do them "Dinosaur-style." That is, I do them in a power rack, set the pins at the bottom position and perform the lift from the bottom position.

5) Pause Bench Press. I mentioned earlier that ALL your Benches should be done with a pause. What I'm talking about here is utilizing a good 3-5 second pause at the bottom. This exaggerated pause will develop incredible power off the chest. 

6) Rowing/Pulldowns. By developing and strengthening the upper-back you will improve the first phase of the Bench Press. A strong back and powerful Lats will aid in your ability to lower the weight under control.

7) Overhead Presses. There is no better way to strengthen your shoulders than by pressing heavy weights overhead. Military Presses, Dumbbell Presses, Seated Presses. Whichever movement you prefer, get in the habit of doing some sort of overhead movement. Stronger shoulders will help you move heavier poundages. They will also help prevent injuries to a very vulnerable area of the body, the shoulder girdle. 

If you are training for a contest, remember that you will have to discontinue assistance movements at some point. Each individual is different, and some people can keep doing assistance work up until about a week before a meet. Others may need to stop much sooner. You will have to determine for yourself the best way to incorporate the various assistance exercises into an overall program. Don't try to imitate others.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What 4 weeks of being coached by Bob Whelan on Web Strength Coach.com did for me



After 4 weeks with Coach Whelan's training routine and nutritional guidance, I was able to pack on 11 pounds and progress 10-20 pounds in most of my work sets. After our first talk, Coach Whelan laid out a specific training routine and nutrition plan to reach my goals. Coach Whelan was there every step of the way to give me encouragement, as well as to critique and make the right adjustments for me to move forward. The mentoring I received, between the phone consultations and suggested reading lists, have given me the confidence that I now have the tools to continue to move forward in my training. Thank you coach for making my goals your goal and staying on top of me to see them through. I highly recommend coach Whelan, (WebStrengthCoach.com), to anyone who is serious about strength training without the excuses.
Very Respectfully,
R.J. Hicks


Editors note: Thanks you RJ, it was a pleasure. You worked hard and deserve the results.

Monday, June 27, 2016

OLD BUT STRONG - By Ian Duckett ... A great book!

Thanks again Ian for sending me a copy of your great book OLD BUT STRONG. I just finished reading it and I thoroughly enjoyed every page. I love your approach to training and life. My favorite parts were the image of you running ten miles on the beach before school ... and your quote: "If you eat clean and train hard - that is what you will look like you do!" ... true dedication and very motivating! This is an awesome book... a truthful top quality guide book to successful bodybuilding, (and living), for all ages! I highly recommend this great book. - Bob Whelan


ORDER HERE

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Training To Improve Your Bench Press - By Jim Duggan

The Bench Press is probably the most popular exercise among people who train with weights. Just about everybody who trains has been asked the inevitable question: "How much do you Bench?" You can possess a world-class Squat or Deadlift, but most people who train in commercial gyms only want to know about your Bench Press. Which is a shame because directing all your energies to only one competitive lift will make you an incomplete lifter. Imagine a tennis player only focusing on his/her backhand. Or a boxer only learning to throw a left hook. The goal of any trainee is to develop all-around body strength. Any powerlifter reading this should strive for balanced strength in all three competitive lifts. And while it's not possible to be equally good in each lift, you should try as hard as possible to not have any weaknesses.

If you are a competitive powerlifter, and are interested in improving your Bench Press, you should develop a systematic plan for increasing your maximum lift. Even if you do not compete, but would simply like to get stronger, you must still develop a program that will lead to an increase in your poundages. And most people will not need a pep talk to get into a program of heavy Bench Pressing. The Bench Press is an excellent test of upper-body strength. I have heard it described as "pure, unadulterated power," from the motionless beginning on the chest, to the completion of the lift. Of course, if you are going to perform the lift, it should be done correctly. When I talk about a Bench Press, I do NOT mean taking a weight, letting bouce off your chest and allowing your spotter(s) to help you complete the movement. A true Bench Press should be done as close as possible to contest rules. Feet flat on the floor, lowering the bar under control, pause at the chest, drive up the bar and lock out both arms evenly. During the performance of the lift, the butt should not come off the bench. The feet should remain motionless (no kicking),and, of course, your spotter should not touch the bar at all. This is how we trained at Bruno's Health Club. And, like most gyms of that time, Larry Licandro, the owner, had a "300 Lb. Bench Press" Club. To get your name on the plaque, you had to perform a perfect Bench Press, in strict form and witnessed by Larry. We used to wonder about how many so-called 300 Lb. benchers from other gyms would be able to get their names on Larry's plaque.The point of all this is to emphasize that there is no sense in performing any lift in sloppy form. 

The first, and most important consideration, when designing a program is to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest. You want to devise a plan for turning your weaknesses into strengths, which will ultimately improve your lift. The Bench Press consists of three parts:

1) Lowering the bar.
2) The initial push off the chest.
3) The lock-out.

Lowering the bar may sound simple, but it is important to control the bar, and not have it control you. Lowering the bar will affect the initial push off the chest. If the bar is lowered too high, or too low on the chest, it can the difference between success and failure. Inhale as the bar is being lowered, and try to lower it slowly- under control. If you are a competitive lifter, remember, you will receive the referee's signal until the bar is motionless. A slow descent will bring the signal more quickly. ( I will refrain from making any comments about some federations and their, shall we say, lack of strict judging.)

The initial push off the chest involves the pectorals, and, to a lesser extent, the lats. One of the best ways to improve your initial push- or "blast-off"- is to always train with a pause. Do NOT bounce the bar off your chest. You will develop good habits which will only help you at a contest. Plus, your shoulders will thank you years from now. If you want to take your pauses to another level, you can train with a three to five second pause with each rep. Of course, as is the case whenever you're bench pressing, you should always train with a spotter. 

Completing the lift from the mid-point to lockout involves a great deal of triceps and shoulder strength. This is an example of determining your strengths and weaknesses. If you are strong off the chest, but you can't quite lock out the weight, then that is a sign that you should strengthen your triceps, and perform assistance exercises to improve your lockout. There are several exercises that you can do, and I will detail them in a future article. As for your shoulders, it is important to strengthen this important area of your body. Not only to improve your Bench Press, but to also prevent injury. 

When it comes to training the Bench Press, you must also determine the optimum number of days to perform the movement. Many lifters will find two days per week sufficient to develop strength. However, there will be some people who might find this too much. Again, be honest. If you find that you are not recovering sufficiently between workouts, or if you are perpetually sore, then you might benefit from less work. If you are training twice per week, you might find that your body responds best by incorporating higher reps in one of your workouts. High reps will provide for a nice change of pace, especially during the "off season." However, you must remember to train with low reps and heavier weights if you are actively preparing for a contest. It would be foolish to train with lighter weights and high reps when you are preparing for a contest. On the other hand, do not become a slave to heavy, near-limit poundages. This is a sure way to become over-trained and/or injured. While heavy, low-rep sets are crucial in preparing for a contest, you can build a lot of strength by utilizing moderate weights and training to a point of momentary fatigue/failure. 

As drug-free athletes, we have to be especially careful not to overtrain, while still trying to make progress. This extends to all facets of training: Diet, sufficient sleep/rest, and the actual training. By training smarter, you will make steady progress. In a future article, I will discuss assistance exercises for the Bench Press, and the best way to utilize them.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Nice Message From Jeff "T-Rex" Bankens

As a professional performing strongman and World Record Holder, I rely heavily on my training to keep me in top physical shape. What I learned, however was that as I approached 38 years old, I began to feel as though I was falling apart. To be more specific, I have tendinitis in my right wrist and pectoral muscle, a "funny click" in my right knee, and a sore area deep under one of my traps. I began to feel as though my training AND performances were working against me. To still be so far from my "golden years", I wondered how my body would survive the trek. After all, I plan to train and perform for many decades to come. I was at my wits' end and had begun to contemplate quitting or drastically changing programs as a last resort. That is, until I was put it contact with "Maximum" Bob Whelan, THE Web Strength Coach. Bob, at: WebStrengthCoach.com ... got my compass heading North again! Not only am I nearly in the best shape of my life in only 5 months, I am making tremendous drug-free gains in strength and conditioning. This is all happening at 38 years old to a guy who's trained since he was 14 years old! Besides all of the gains, my dings and dents are much less significant than before. On top of all of this, I have more family time than before, which is a big plus when you have a wife and kids.

Bob is the real deal, and he is 4 Star TRex approved!



Editors Note: Jeff, thanks so much! I appreciate this but YOU did the work. Thanks again! -Bob

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Remembering a great man: Mike Bondurant - By Neil Saffer

On April 14th the world lost a great man. Our friend Mike Bondurant passed from this world after a brave 5 year battle with cancer, which he fought like the true strong man he was.

Mike was one of a kind. I could fill a book or two with stories and I am sure that each of you reading this will have many of your own to add. I will try to briefly tell the story of a great man, a wonderful husband, father, son, grandfather, neighbor and friend. Mike Bondurant was a veteran, a gym owner, a bodybuilding contest promoter, an actor, an Emcee, a salesman, an Iron Game collector and historian, a writer, an environmentalist, a knife collector and a great guy!

Mike grew up in Virginia and then attended high school in Germany. The son of a highly decorated Army veteran he followed his dad Col. Ray Bondurant’s footsteps and enlisted in the US Army where he served in intelligence from 1958-1962.

After Mikes service he went to Yokohama Japan where he met the love of his life, his beautiful wife Tomi , they married in 1966 and had two beautiful daughters Michelle and Misty.

Mike and Tomi lived in Hawaii from 1964-1969 and Mike graduated from the University of Hawaii. Mike had always loved all things physical culture and while in Hawaii he worked and trained at the famous Mits Gym (taking over for Tommy Kono).

After moving back to the states (Delray Beach Florida) Mike opened the first Key Gym in 1972. Over the next 30 years Key Gym had moved several time to bigger and better facilities but the feeling was always the same, a family run gym, solid equipment, with many pieces built by Mike (who took a welding class at the local night school to learn how to build his own equipment). Homemade protein shakes, muscle cookies and brownies by Mikes daughters, and legendary Christmas parties with Tomi’s famous sushi.

Over the years Key Gym turned out many of South Florida’s best natural bodybuilders and many a young man and women got their first taste of the iron as well as a feel for the camaraderie that you can only get in a local gym at Key Gym.

Mike and his family promoted the best amateur contests in South Florida for years starting in 1980 with The Mr. Boca Raton followed in 1981 by The Palm Coast. Mike was a pioneer in the drug free bodybuilding movement and was the first to promote tested contests starting with The Natural Intracoastal in 1986. In 1990 Mike and I started promoting ANBC Contest s together which we did for the following 7 years.

Mike was always an advocate of natural foods and hated artificial sweeteners and chemicals. In 1986 he started Key fitness Formulas and there are many people that swear to this day that Key Pro 93 was the best protein powder of all time. Mike covered many miles in his van selling and delivering Key Pro to gyms and health food stores all over Florida.

Mike was a collector of any and all things related to the Iron game and its history. What started as a small collection became The Muscle Museum and Mike the curator. He would spend days tracking down an interesting piece and many hours on the phone talking to other collectors. I think that one of the best days of his life was when he acquired his 1st globe barbell, as well as the day he discovered eBay. Mike attended several meetings of The Association of Old Time Barbell and Strongmen, had many good friend in the organization and led several collectors meetings at the annual gathering. Mike wrote The Muscle Museum Forum for many years a labor of love for collectors, published by his daughter Michelle.

The Muscle Museum was housed at all the various Key Gym locations until Mike moved to Clearwater in 1998 where he opened a health food store and the new home of the Muscle Museum. A few years later Mike and Tomi moved to Saint Augustine, a town that they had always loved and dreamed of living in. In Saint Augustine Mike stated a new chapter and starred in several local productions at the local theater. The Muscle Museum moved to 2 rooms at Mike and Tomi’s new home and still welcomed many visitors as they were passing through town.

On a personal note I spend most every night on a stage in front of a crowd, a skill I learned and honed from behind the curtain watching Mike emceeing bodybuilding contests for years! I have knives all over my desk and office and read every knife book and catalog I can get my hands on, I love old westerns and I recycle, and I train in a backyard gym that is all old school and hardcore all a tribute to my best friend Mike Bondurant.


Listen to Mike's interview on MFR

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Working Out While Training - By John Greaves III

I know that’s a weird title. Seems like I just said the same thing twice. But here me out. What I mean is you should be actively involved in problem solving during your training session if you want to be successful long term. Working out has developed a bit of a bad rap over the past few years. The idea of working out is now associated with half hearted curls with pink dumbbbells or lethargic reps on a selectorized machine in between sets of posting selfies to your Twitter account about how you’re going“Beast Mode”. Today serious exercisers say they train. Either they train for a specific sport or they train to be ready for life. This is in general a good thing but it does have a downside. Training tends to imply steady progress toward a peak or specific goal and followed possibly by a deload period and then by another steady rise to a higher level of performance or improved physique.

Too bad that’s not how it works in real life. Real life training often includes plateaus, sometimes even periods where strength or fitness declines. So how do we respond when we hits those plateaus? If we’re smart, we work out the problem like a kid in math class working out problems on the board.

I’m in the same process now, working on mastering my breathing in the barbell squat. Didn’t do so hot last session. Passed out some time during the fourth rep of the third set; had to apologize to my spotters afterward and be more careful so it didn’t happen again when I did my fourth and final set. I’m experimenting with three breaths at the top; descending after the third breath. In the past I tried breathing twice and one big breath. It’s a problem I’m working out.

I don’t think that I’m the only one who has come up with good ideas during a training session. That’s why my office is in my basement right next to the garage gym where I normally train. As focused as I may be on my training session, when an idea hits me; I immediately run into my office and jot the idea down before I lose it. I’ve written some of my best work after an intense workout session. But more than that, the process of working out an exercise problem forces you to research different ideas, it may cause you to talk to others with more time in the Iron Game than you. All of this is beneficial to your brain, which is essentially an organic problem solving engine.

I think that the mental effort to figure out how to get a stalled lift to show progress again reaps tremendous benefits and not just in physical ways. I was listening to performing strongman Chris Schoeck on the Super Strength Show podcast recently and he mentioned in passing that he keeps horseshoes next to his bed while he’s working them out. Working them out. It hit me as I continued to listen to the conversation that while performing strongmen have always trained to perform strength feats, they didn’t necessarily periodize. Instead they applied effort and intellect to problems until they hit upon the secret to bending the nail, breaking the bat, juggling that barbell. Might be why some of the greatest intellectuals of the past, Theodore Roosevelt, Da Vinci also pursued regular physical training. Every plateau forces you to stretch mentally and grow spiritually.

Ignoring the power of working out problems with your lifts can lead to unnecessary discouragement, especially in our social media world where it seems like everyone else is hitting PRs everytime they step into the gym or onto a platform. Don’t fall into that trap. Plateaus come to everyone. I’ve interviewed several champions and talked so many more at competitions and they all say the same things. Everyone stalls sometimes. Even if they’re using modern chemical assistance. How much more if you’re a natural trainee?

Don’t be discouraged when you stall. Embrace this opportunity to understand more about this particular lift or how this bodypart on you responds to different kinds of training. Maybe rest a little bit more, adjust technique. Work out the problem. You’ll come out of this with a stronger mind in a stronger body.

John Greaves III’s website garagegymlife.net

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Missing the BIG picture? - By R.J. Hicks

Serious strength training was first introduced to me at the age of 14. A group of football players from the neighborhood and I would go over to Coach Mike’s house, who was not only our coach but our mentor, to workout in his basement and backyard. The basement was small but not empty; a bench press and cable pull down were situated side by side and a reverse hyper machine was only steps away. The floor was lined with heavy dumbbells and various kettlebells. Squat stands and adjustable Olympic stands stood crowded in the corner. Outside was a rubber platform for heavy deadlifts, front squats, and Olympic lift variations. Just beyond the gated fence were huge tires and other seemingly odd lifting objects resting in the mangled, overgrown yard. The workouts were challenging and progressive, and every time we trained sets and reps were recorded. A sense of nervousness came over me every time I showed up to train. Between the competitive environment, the constant reassurance and fortitude among peers, and the moment of truth that came with weekly weigh ins and skin fold measures there existed no place to escape growth, development, or self criticism. I was scared. Fear of quitting, embarrassment in my performance, and of not being able to complete the workouts or not measuring up to the other athletes constantly engulfed my thoughts. For the first time in my life a new mentality began to take place. It was built on a newfound belief of self reliance and the acknowledgement that no matter what was thrown at me while at Coach Mike’s house, I could take the pain, the uncertainty, the criticism, and sacrifice needed to eventually succeed. Despite the rigorous atmosphere, each workout brought about a strong sense of accomplishment, confidence, and mental toughness. Everything I got out of that training carried over into my daily life as I learned not to be afraid of failure and how to battle adversity, both inside and outside the weight room. The key to our successful training, which took me a long time to realize, was looking to push the weight up every workout. Because of this, every day we left the gym a little stronger and motivated for the next workout.

I have always struggled with constant frustration on my journey to build strength as I have battled multiple obstacles and derailments. When I arrived at college, I believed my strength training was a failure, which was difficult because I had been training and working since I was 14 years old. I blamed the strength programs we were using to train and the need to drop weight for wrestling. Because of this misplaced blame, I thought I needed more advanced training methods. Therefore I over trained assuming it would allow me to gain strength quicker allowing me to catch up to those I was competing against. In the end, it did nothing besides slow my personal progress in addition to hurting me physically. It was upsetting and demoralizing knowing something I cared so much about and truly dedicated myself too did not give me the results I wanted. This disappointment only fueled me to want to know more. Many others in similar situations begin to over think training programs, attempting to find the perfect rep and set scheme while trying to discover the best combination of exercises with the perfect amount of rest in between them. It is when this occurs and we feel as if our training is failing, that we must revert back to basic training principles and simply look to add weight.

Variety, change, and muscle confusion are heavily emphasized as a foundation of many training programs. The desire to improve every physical aspect of the muscle groups and work every energy system at once keeps coaches preoccupied and sometimes distant from the goal of strength training. I see it in the weight room where coaches are training for better movements, balance, speed, or specific motor abilities all the while forgetting that the purpose of strength training is to build bigger and stronger muscles. It does not matter the type of strength training the athlete practices whether one is a power lifter, Olympic lifter, strongman competitor, college athlete, or fitness enthusiast, if he or she want to get stronger weight must be continually added. If an athlete is using 70 pounds for one arm dumbbell rows for 10 reps and progressively works their way up to 90 pounds for 10 reps, then the athlete has gotten stronger, it’s as simple as adding weight for the same number of reps. A training program with the goal of building strength needs to incorporate progressive resistance throughout its entirety.

I began to witness this ideology when I put this principle of strength training in the form of just adding weight to the forefront of priorities while I interned. Once I graduated college I took an internship where my beliefs and perceptions on strength training brought me back to very basic principles. My internship was at Excellence in Fitness, which is a high intensity strength training studio run by Joe Aben who is a long time client and friend of Bob Whelan. The coaches at Excellence in Fitness practice a simple system which included 9-12 exercises, usually one set each sometimes more, where strict form is demanded and every exercise is meticulously recorded. The training is challenging and always progressive because weight is added once the rep range was met. This addition of weight meant that improvement can be found within every workout. My first workout training in this way called for 7 exercises; leg press, hammer strength bench, pulldown, pendulum squat machine squat machine, nautilus shoulder press, seated row, and back extensions. As simple as it sounded I felt I physically got more out of each exercise. I felt my muscles actually working to their limits, being able to contract harder to generate more force in that workout then the hundreds I had performed before. Not only did I feel more productive in the workout, but now I had an easy tracking system to build the weight on each exercise in a practical approach. I realized that I had gotten caught up into the finer details of building maximal strength, reversal strength, strength speed, speed strength, sub maximal lifting, concurrent training and all other component of strength. I misplaced the basic principles we all learn from the start and that really focusing on a few exercises was more powerful then drawing up the most advanced workout. I felt firsthand how I could work very hard, without stressing over programming and waiting several weeks to test for validation of my new strength. Remember it is not the exercises or training methods which our most important to strength training, but the principles. Aben’s system is successful not because of how the program is written or even the exercise selection, but due to the fact he never lost sight of constantly adding poundage in a tractable manor which makes people stronger.

Although personally I train leaning more towards high intensity strength training principles, I believe that simply being able to add weight for the same amount of reps is one of the most efficient ways to get stronger. It’s simple; add weight, same reps, get stronger. Even though great merit exists in powerlifting based programs, Olympic lifts, high volume training and even high intensity training, all of these training methods have the potential to be just as ineffective as beneficial. The big picture here is that in order to get big and strong, the underlying principle for success in whatever training method an athlete or fitness enthusiast chooses is the ingenious concept of simply adding weight. 


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Farmer's Walk - By Jim Duggan

The Farmer's Walk is an excellent exercise, in addition to being a popular event in Strongman contests throughout the world. For years, just about every Strongman contest has had a variation of the Farmer's Walk as an event. And for good reason: Carrying a heavy weight in each hand, and attempting to walk a prescribed distance for time, or to try to carry it as far as possible, is an impressive display of strength. It is also an excellent addition to any strength program.

The amount of physical stamina, not to mention mental toughness, required to grind out a long Farmer's Walk will produce great results. You will stimulate gains in your lower back and traps. Your grip strength will be tested, as well as your cardio conditioning, the further you travel. However, your biceps and/or pecs will NOT get pumped. You will not get "jacked" ( I still don't know-or care- what "jacked" really means.)

The Farmer's Walk is an excellent "finisher" after a tough workout. You can also make it a workout in and of itself. It's not difficult to master, you don't need a coach to instruct you on the finer points of the movement. You simply bend down, grasp the weights, deadlift them, and then start walking. You just need some sort of implements to carry, and a place to carry them. If you have a parking lot or a sidewalk at your gym, that would work fine. If you train at home, a backyard, sidewalk, or long driveway would do the trick. Another option would be to drive to a school or park and utilize a track or open area. There are numerous ways of getting it done, and your options are limited only by your imagination. There is one proviso that I would like to point out: You will probably get some strange looks from passersby, particularly if you do these in a park or residential neighborhood. However, once you make up your mind to do it, you won't even notice. Or care.

As far as the "implements" you'll be carrying, there are many options from which to choose. If you have access to heavy dumbbells, then that will work just fine. Just be careful about dropping them when you're fatigued. And you WILL get fatigued. You can also use a Trap Bar or Hex Bar. It's not the best option in my opinion, as you will find yourself trying to keep the bar balanced as your moving. Also, if you are very large, you might not fit properly inside a Trap Bar. I remember watching Drew Israel trying to use one years ago. Drew is one of the largest-and most powerful-men I've ever met. His arms would chafe against his thighs because he was literally too big for a standard Trap Bar. Of course he solved this problem by purchasing a custom-made Trap Bar that weighed about 100 Lbs., but that's another story.

Because of the popularity of the Farmer's Walk, today there are numerous special implements that are available. I first purchased a pair from Drew about twenty years ago, and I still have them, and use them. They weigh 70 kg each, and have a loading area to add olympic plates. The first time I ever tried a Farmer's Walk was at Dr. Ken's Iron Island Gym. Several of us would go outside, behind the gym in back of the building. Dr. Ken had some nice "toys" in the back. Several large ( 500 Lb. and up) tires for flipping, a length of large nautical chain, steel I-Beams, and several water-filled kegs provided plenty of "fun" for anybody willing to challenge themselves. 

The back of the gym was perfect for doing a Farmer's Walk because there was plenty of space to walk. You could walk a set distance, turn around and go back. You would repeat as often as you could. This brings me to another hint: If you are carrying your weights in a straight path, i.e. no turn around, make sure you don't go too far. In other words, if you carry your implements to the point of failure, then you will faced with the problem of getting them back. I always preferred to walk a distance of about 50'-100' and then turn around. The turning around part can be tricky. You will have to slow down a bit in order to do it, otherwise your momentum can cause you slip.

I would also recommend that you make sure that you are thoroughly warmed up before doing this movement. Do not do it cold. A strained calf or hamstring will not only prevent you from doing justice to your workout, but it could set back your training. One time we were training in back of the gym, and we were attempting to carry 250 Lbs. in each hand. We set the distance at 100'. I was able to carry the weights the full distance, but on the return trip I felt something in my left calf. It initially felt as if someone had hit me with a pebble or rock, but I had actually incurred a strain to my calf muscle. End of workout. The moral of the story is that your muscles should be warm, and thoroughly stretched, before attempting something you've never tried before.

If you've never tried the Farmer's Walk, give it a try. There is nothing quite like fighting your way through a set distance. When your lower back is screaming, your forearms burning, and you feel as if you're about to collapse from exhaustion, you get to see just how mentally tough you really are. And, of course, upon completion of your workout, you will feel the satisfaction of having worked hard. And of having strengthened your entire body.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Tommy Kono - The Best Iron Game Athlete in Physical Culture History.

BODY • MIND • SPIRIT