Bob's online store

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Please Send a Happy 91st Birthday Card to an Iron Game Legend ... Norbert Schemansky

Please send a card to wish a Happy 91st birthday to an all time great, Norbert Schemansky. 
Please send cards to:
Norbert Schemansky
c/o Karen Ketover
745 West Burns Rd.
Sanford, MI 48657

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bob Whelan Interview (April 2015) with Old School Training & Physical Culture (Italy)

Bob Whelan Interview

- Hi Bob. It’s a great pleasure to “talk” with you about OST (Old School Training). What do you think about Old School Training?

- Hi Oreste and thanks for inviting me on the Old School Training & Physical Culture Blog. It looks like a great site.

- Old school training is the way I’ve always trained. I believe that “old-school training” is defined first and foremost by training naturally without the use of any drugs. Secondly, it is training with the basic compound (multi-joint) exercises such as the squat, the deadlift, the bench press, overhead pressing, barbell rowing, chins, dips (and others) etc. The main focus is on load (poundage) progression, and using good form of course, to maximize your natural genetic physical potential for strength and muscular development. Old school strength training is not ever to be confused with “toning” or general fitness.

- Tell us more about your WST (Whelan Strength Training). What are the principles?

- I ran Whelan Strength Training (WST), in downtown Washington, DC for more than 22 years from 1990 till 2012. It was one of the top private gyms for personal strength coaching in the world. I now live in Florida and still train a few local clients from my garage gym. I brought many of the best pieces of equipment from WST with me. My main business now focuses on my books at and my online training business at (WSC). I can now train clients from anywhere and have a lot of European and Australian clients too. The principles of WST and WSC are the same. Here they are:

The Web Strength Commandments

I Thou shalt train for total fitness and health and do cardiovascular (interval high intensity type), flexibility, and strength training.

II Thou shalt not smoke, take illegal drugs, or abuse legal drugs. (*I do not train smokers, steroid users or people who use illegal drugs.)

III Thou shalt not use steroids or assist anyone in obtaining them.

IV Thou shalt be mentally focused and give 100 percent effort at every training session.

V Thou shalt strive for progressive resistance, using good form, without excessive rest between sets & use the fullest (but safe) range of motion possible.

VI Thou shalt focus on the basic compound strength training movements (multi-joint, not isolation). Thou shalt train the whole body with equal emphasis on pushing & pulling. The training foundation: vertical push/pull, horizontal push/pull, leg/hip/back push/pull.

VII Thou shalt not seek shortcuts, miracle formulas or gimmicks but instead stick to basic & sound information concerning training and nutrition.

VIII Thou shalt perform hard and progressive strength training (not toning, shaping, or body sculpting).

IX Thou shalt not train "body parts" but train the WHOLE BODY (hard), twice every 7 to 10 days.

X Thou shalt not rely on megahype muscle magazines for training or nutritional advice.


Failure or not, High Intensity Training? What method is best?

I am an advocate of natural, hard and progressive strength training so whatever label you want to attach to that so be it. Here is what I believe:

1. How you train depends on what your goal is. Don’t get hung up on labels. There are many tools in the tool shed and I use them all depending on the job. Many methods work. If you enjoy lifting heavy weights then you are my brother. Do what you enjoy and what best matches your individual goals.

2. Intensity is defined as the amount of “work” you do per unit of time.

3. There are four ways to increase your intensity (work) in strength training. Here they are: (A-D)

A. Increase the load or poundage. This is the most important element for getting results. It is the key that unifies all successful strength training programs regardless of label.

B. Sets to muscular failure. Sets to failure are clearly the most “time efficient” way to train, and probably the best way to train for “most” people. I do most of my training to failure. It depends on your training goal to determine if you should train this way. Most people do not compete as strength athletes. If you are a strength athlete and need to demonstrate a one rep max then this would not be the way to go. A low rep pyramid style would be better. Training to failure is not “required” to get results as long as you are increasing the load. Going to failure with weights that are too light will get you nowhere. Training to muscular failure with the main focus always on progressive poundage is my personal favorite way to train.

C. Reduce “Excessive” rest.

D. Use (more) Strict Form

Please go to, (my two books) and (Natural Strength Night Podcast) for more info on my training philosophy.

- Who is your favorite athlete in the Iron Game?

My favorite Iron Game figure is John C. Grimek.

- And writer and trainer?

There are many that I like but my favorite muscle writers are Bradley J. Steiner and Peary Rader. My favorite “trainers” or coaches are Ken Mannie who is the head strength coach at Michigan State University, and I really admire the guy I dedicated my book, Super Natural Strength to: Father Bernard Lange of Notre Dame University.

- Which is your actual workout?

I usually do a horizontal and vertical push and pull, a major leg movement and an ab movement as the foundation. I add to it depending on my goal or mood at the time.

- Form Hardgainer magazine to now, have your opinions changed?

- The main things that have changed are my views on nutrition and cardio. My strength training views are still the same. I now only do high intensity (shorter/harder) “interval” type cardio. For diet, what has changed is that I now try to eliminate foods that turn to sugar, mainly the starches and simple carbs. (I still use raw honey straight from the hive for tea and coffee.) I now eat mostly a lot of raw vegetables, a small amount of fruit, a small amount of dairy, mainly an occasional Greek yogurt, but a lot of meat, pork, chicken, fish etc. I usually eat 2 big bowls of raw cut up vegetables every day, (made from 9 chopped vegetables (no lettuce) such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, broccoli, green bell peppers, colorful bell peppers, spinach, baby carrots, radishes and I put a lot of sliced meat (or pork, chicken or fish) on top of it. Delicious! Diet and cardio information have changed so much so keep this in mind when you read what I wrote 20 years ago. I used the best information available and still do. The strength training info though does not really change. The stuff I wrote from 20 years ago is still rock solid today.

- Which are your favorite books on strength training?

My favorite books are the original Brawn, by Stuart McRobert, the original Dinosaur Training, by Brooks Kubik, Super Strength by Alan Calvert and Iron Nation, compiled by myself and Drew Israel with about 35 guest authors too. (

- Thanks very much Bob, from your Italian fans!

Thanks for having me Oreste . To my Italian friends, If you would like to be coached by me online and by Skype, please visit my website, (you must know English well). Also, please check out my old-time strongman bookstore at and listen to my podcast: Natural Strength Night on I have many informative interviews there with many of the greats such as Tommy Kono, Marvin Eder, Brad Steiner, Stuart McRobert and many others. Keep training hard! -Max Bob

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Scourge of 'Body Part' Training - By Michael Turner

Go to train in most gyms and you can almost guarantee at some point you will hear something along the lines of the following "What ya training today mate?.... Chest day mate" or perhaps the answer will be 'shoulder day' or perhaps 'arm day'. The point I am making is that many men and women looking to increase their strength and muscle mass naively spend entire workouts focusing on one specific area of their body, believing this to be the best way to train. This method of training typically promotes far too many visits to the gym and far too many sets and exercises which ultimately results in little to no progress for the average trainee. I should point out that some people can do well with body part training but usually these are the people who are on performance enhancing drugs or they may be people who are natural but are more responsive to weight training than the average person. This article is aimed at the average trainee who is natural and wants to make serious improvements in their strength and muscular size.

A typical body part routine usually has the trainee focusing on one or two body parts at each workout, an example might look something like this Monday - chest, Tuesday - back, Wednesday - legs, Thursday - shoulders, Friday - arms. Using Mondays chest workout as an example the trainee might to 4 sets of flat bench presses, 4 sets of incline bench presses, 4 sets of decline bench presses and then finish the workout off with 2 sets of peck deck or cable crossovers. That is 14 sets just for the chest supposedly, this is massive overkill and I can assure you that no one needs 12 sets in one workout just to train their chest muscles. The rest of the week would look the same with multiple sets of several different exercises all for one area of the body. Many people at gyms train in this fashion and they get absolutely nowhere, they are stuck in the mud spinning their tires largely because of the ignorant and dangerous advice that is promoted by the fitness industry in general. Body part training is not the way to go for the genetically average natural trainee looking to gain serious strength and muscle and I will explain why.

The supposed logic behind this kind of training is that by only focusing on just one area of the body the rest of your body is getting a rest and recovering, this is not true however. Your muscles are one of the major systems of your body in the sense that you have a nervous system, a hormone system and a cardiovascular system you also have a muscular system. Your body's muscles are all interconnected and function as a unit, they do not function as separate body parts and you can never truly isolate a muscle. Once this is understood it becomes clear how ridiculous and ineffective body part training is for most people most of the time. The 'chest day' is not really a chest day because muscles in the shoulders and arms are also worked hard any time you do a pressing exercise, having an 'arm day' after your chest, back and shoulder days is absurd because the muscles of the arms will already have done a significant amount of work during the previous workouts. Despite this I can guarantee you will see people in gyms doing their barbell curls, followed by their preacher curls, followed by their cable curls and all this just to work the relatively small bicep muscle. Yet another problem with body part training is that when one lifts weights it is not just the muscular system being stressed, the nervous system is also stressed as are the connective tissues surrounding your joints. Following a typical body part split which has you in the gym between four and six days a week is bound to exceed your recovery capacity and may even result in injury. So now that I have finished my rant about the stupidity of body part training and all the nonsense that goes along with it what is the solution you ask? The solution is to simplify, to go back to basic, uncomplicated weight training with PROGRESSION being the bottom line.

Instead of splitting you workouts into body parts try training your whole body twice a week using just one or two exercises for each of the major muscle groups. An example could be the following:

Squat 2 x 10 Bench press 2 x 8 Dumbell row 2 x 8 Barbell overhead press 2 x 8 Pull up 2 x 8

Doing just those five exercises would work your entire body and as long as you increased the weight every week or two and trained hard you should make good progress. This workout is just a very basic example of a sensible training routine, there would be nothing wrong with including some calf or abdominal work or even some curls. Just make sure you are not doing lots of sets because you want to keep the intensity high and you cannot do that if you are doing ten sets for one exercise. See how simple this routine looks compared to the typical bodybuilding splits which have you doing lots of different exercises for lots of sets and reps six days a week. People need to get away from this idea of training body parts if they are serious about increasing their muscular size and strength, it has mislead so many people for a long time now and continues to do so. Ditch the body part splits and start training your body as a unit!

Osmo Kiiha Interview with Bob Whelan - NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT podcast - (episode 23) - 05 Mar 15

Osmo Kiiha Interview with Bob Whelan - NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT podcast - (episode 23) - 05 Mar 15

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,

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
(  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

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

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

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,  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

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

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.

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