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Monday, October 5, 2015

Three Workouts Per Week: Is It Enough? - By Burt Gam

First off, let's This is not an article for muscle heads, steroid users or genetic freaks. This is about good sensible training for the average person and life-long weight trainer. By average I mean genetically typical drug free everyday people who work, go, to school, raise families and otherwise have a life outside of lifting. In other words, 98% of the population. The question is; Is it possible to make progress or even maintain size and strength on a three day a week program to make it worthwhile? The answer is your damn right it is! Let me state my case for the skeptics out there who think split routines are the way to go.

The average bodybuilder on a split routine is probably over trained. For some reason, many trainees are brain washed into thinking what works for the champs will work for them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Those impressive on paper high volume routines published in magazines generally work only for a select few gifted trainees who are juicing. What they also do is sell magazine subscriptions and supplements which are being endorsed.

Lets say for the sake of the argument that these routines do work. Questions and issues arise such as " Is training two hours a day six days a week worth it from a benefit versus effort perspective? How does my training affect my personal life as far as work and spending time with the family? Do I have the genetic capability to make it all the way to the top of my field to compete? How will my health be affected? Can my body take the strain?

For most people, extended split routines result in over training and staleness. Progress begins to wane. Gains come slow or not at all. Injuries become more likely. The central nervous system becomes frazzled. Workouts become an exercise in futility and simply going through the motions. Important aspects of life become neglected.

When I was young, I spent a lot of time in the gym. I did make progress, not as much from the training but because I was young. I was on my first tour of duty in the Air Force stationed in Anchorage Alaska. Our daughter was born. Time to maintain that training schedule became difficult. My wife needed help and pleaded with me to work-out less. On top of that, I spent and entire Alaskan summer (so short you could close your eyes and miss it) inside a gym instead of seeing some of the most spectacular scenery on earth.

The solution was to train three times a week. The advantages are tremendous. Most people today do not realize that many years ago this was the norm . The day or two of rest between work outs allowed for a more complete recovery. This is necessary especially for strength gains and probably for mass as well.

Beginners too seem to thrive on this type of training as well as athletes. Off days were devoted to other aspects of training such as cardio, flexibility, agility and skill development for sports. This type of program fits well into recreational training and sports performance improvement. Even NFL players train this way, at least during the season because they need the time and energy to be expended elsewhere. Try to find one who is not incredibly big and strong!

You might be thinking; "How can I fit all of the exercises I do in a split routine for all body parts into three days? How can I manage the training volume?

The answer is you can't nor should you. People generally do far to many exercises and sets. By sticking to the basic compound exercises and increasing intensity, the three day program becomes extremely effective. Instead of multiple exercises for, chest, back, shoulders, legs, arms, etc. we concentrate the program into the fewest basic exercises that give the most bang for the buck! At the same time we reduce or eliminate single joint exercises . These are fine for bringing up lagging body parts or correcting muscular strength imbalances, but even then they are used sparingly. Basic routines coupled with sufficient intensity is the key to success! Constructing the program itself is not rocket science. Instead of pulling featured programs out of my favorite magazine I learned how to design my own program tailor made!

Here is how to do it.

Your program will be centered around the best exercises for each major muscle group. Once you determine the best compound exercises you simply organize them into a workable three day a week training schedule. The way I start is with the "Big Three"; Deadlift, Bench Press and Squat. These three exercises alone are the cornerstone of a solid program. All that remains to do is pick the other best exercises. Here are my choices.

1. Chest-Bench press and Incline Bench Press.
2. Thighs- Squats and Front Squats.
3. Shoulders- Standing Barbell and Dumbbell Presses.
4. Back(upper)- Pull-ups for width, Barbell/Dumbbell Rows for thickness.
5. Back(lower)- All forms of Deadlifts(Also for total body).
6. Trapezius- Hang Cleans and Shrugs.
7. Hamstrings- Good mornings and Stiff Leg Deadlifts.
8. Biceps- Chins with a supinated grip.
9. Triceps- Narrow Bench Press and Dips (awesome chest builder too!)
10.Calf- Single Leg Calf Raise with dumbbell.

Here is a sample program. The sets and repetitions can be adjusted as needed for either strength or hypertrophy emphasis.

Monday                                    Wednesday                                          Friday
Deadlifts 5x5                            Bench Press 5x5, 1x10                    Squat 5x5 1x10
Barbell Press 5x5                     Leg Press 3x10                                Good Morning 3x8-10
Pronated Chins 3x6-10            Single Arm Dumbbell Row 3x6-8      Dips 3x8-12
Narrow Bench Press 3x6-8      Alternate Dumbbell Press 3x6-8       Supinated Chins 3x6-10
Leg Extension 3x10-15             Leg Curl 3x10-15                              Calf Raise 3x15
Ab Work                                    Ab Work                                            Ab Work

There it is. For those skeptics out there who feel that this type of work-out is too simple, I can only say TRY IT! Remember the emphasis is on intensity, not volume. Volume is the enemy of intensity. Just try to make progress in weight, especially on the "Big Three". For those people who need a bit more variety or need extra work in certain weak areas, single joint work can be used sparingly. These can be rotated in and out as needed. For those interested in power work (Power Cleans/Push Presses), these can be added as first exercises for each day. There is room for flexibility. Give the three day program your best effort for three months. Focus on intensity and steadily increasing weight while using good technique and form. You will be rewarded with increased strength and size.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Importance of Concentration - By Jim Duggan

One of the most prolific- and talented- writers ever to grace the pages of any muscle magazine was John McCallum. His "Keys to Progress" series appeared in "Strength and Health" magazine from 1965 to 1972. It was an extremely popular feature, and his articles had a positive influence on countless thousands of trainees. Although I was too young to be able to enjoy his writing during its original run- I was born in 1964- I have been able to benefit from John's words, thanks to the foresight of Ironmind Enterprises, Inc., which compiled his articles in a book. "The Complete Keys to Progress" is one of the finest books on training ever published. If you have not done so already, do yourself a tremendous favor and order a copy today.

Of course, when I refer to training, I mean sensible, productive, no-nonsense training. Certainly not the type of useless misinformation found in any of the "muscle comics" available at most newsstands. Common sense is timeless. It is also, I am sad to say, not very common at all. If you have the opportunity to take advantage of some of the best training articles ever written, you can't let it slip away.

There were about one hundred articles in the original Keys to Progress. The series covered everything from diet, to building bulk and power, to training for definition, and the all-time classic: Heavy breathing Squats. And while some articles may have become somewhat archaic (P.H.A. training, high protein-high set training), most of the information presented is as relevant today as it was nearly fifty years ago.

One of my favorite pieces was dedicated to the importance of concentration. Actually, he devoted three articles to the topic of concentration. One of his best quotes is as follows: " If you're not going to concentrate on your training, you may as well forget it." Which leads me to an amusing- or sad- incident that I had the pleasure of witnessing at the gym about a month ago. I was working out during the middle of the day. Now, the gym where I train has a Power Rack and two Squat Racks, all three are lined up side by side. On this particular day, all three pieces of equipment were being used at the same time. One trainee was doing standing Presses in the Power Rack, another was doing standing Presses in one of the Squat Racks, while the third guy was Squatting. The three trainees in question were all about twenty years-old or so. They were each about 5'10" - 6' tall, and they each looked to be around 200 Lbs..They were definitely not beginners. Which makes what I'm about to relate even more pathetic.

The guy who was doing standing presses in the Power Rack had the bar loaded to 95 Lbs.. The guy who was Squatting was using 135 Lbs..And last- and definitely least- the guy doing standing presses on the Squat Rack was using 75 Lbs.. Of course, they all used lifting belts to assist them in their massive poundages. But the other thing that they had in common, was that each one of them would pull out a cell phone and proceed to text after each and every set. Who or what they were texting is not important. How could they possibly be concentrating on their training? They were more concerned with playing with the phones than they were about lifting. And it showed. It's too bad that someone else couldn't take a picture of the distracted trio. The perfect caption would be: "This is why you are using baby weights!"

Now, in fairness, maybe all three of them are ER surgeons on call. But I doubt it. And the sad part is that they were not the only ones engaged in such nonsense. Go to any commercial gym and you will see the same sort of behavior. You'll be amazed. You will also become envious of every person who is lucky enough to lift in a garage or basement gym and thereby not have to be subjected to this sort of thing.

One of my favorite old quotes about lifting came from an old Soviet weightlifter from the 1970s. In response to a question about how he psyched himself up to lift heavy weights, he replied: "The weight must not be feared. It must fear you." Well, how is the weight ever going to fear you if you are not even paying attention to it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Lost Art of Dumbbell Pressing - By Jim Duggan

One of the most effective upper-body exercises is the Overhead Press.  Whether you utilize a barbell, dumbbells, any of the various machines, a log ( as popularized in the early World's Stronges Man contests during the 70s), tremendous strength can be developed by pushing a heavy weight overhead.  And, of course, your muscle mass will increase, but more importantly, a stronger shoulder girdle will make that area of your body less susceptible to injury.  We all known persons who have sustained shoulder injuries.  Some minor, others more serious, sometimes even requiring surgery.  Over the years, many authorities have expounded on the reasons for the increase in shoulder injuries to people who lift.  Too much emphasis on Bench Pressing, not enough direct shoulder work, muscle imbalances in the deltoid area, etc.. Fortunately, it is universally agreed that if trainees devote more time to doing overhead pressing, and strengthening their shoulders, there will be fewer injuries to that vulnerable area.

Even though I competed in powerlifting for many years, I have always enjoyed doing overhead presses. Perhaps it's because my earliest inspiration to lift was watching the Weightlifting championships on television as a kid.  I vividly recall watching the 1976 Olympics as a twelve year-old and being awe-struck as the weightlifters hoisted huge poundages overhead.  All these years later, I am still impressed watching somebody lift a weight off the ground and push it to arm's length over their head.     

For many years, I have used standing Military Presses as my principal overhead exercise.  I would usually use a power rack, set the bar at chest height ( or slightly above depending on the rack.)  I would usually do sets of five or six.  And, of course, with a power rack you also have the option of setting the pins a little higher and doing partial presses.  But I'll save those for another article.

Over the past few years, I've done more Dumbbell Presses than I have with a barbell.  Sometimes it was more convenient, since I don't have a power rack in my house.  I do have dumbbells.  Two of the best items I've purchased have been dumbbell handles from Ironmind Enterprises, Inc..Both the thick-handled and regular size handled bars are excellent tools for doing Dumbbell Presses. Last year, I concentrated on doing One-Arm Dumbbell Presses using the thick-handled DB bars.  I would load the bar, grasp it with one hand, clean/pull it to my shoulders and press it overhead.  I would try to stand as straight as possible, no leaning.  I would usually do several sets, beginning with a weight I could handle for six reps.  I would increase the weight on each succeeding set until I could do one or two reps.  Even though I am righ-handed, I would make every effort to keep the reps even with my (weaker) left arm.  This is an excellent exercise, provided that you use good form.  Come to think of it, you can probably say the same about any movement you perform.  Anyway, if you keep your body as straight as possible and lock out the weight and hold it overhead, you will develop significant strength in your shoulders.  This increased strength will easily translate to your barbell presses.  At least it does for me.

Since the beginning of this past Summer, I have been doing something different for my shoulder presses.  I'm still utilizing dumbbells, but I'm doing higher reps, and a different movement.  I've been doing dumbbell clean and presses, using two DBs at a time.  I'm also lowering the DBs to the hang position between each rep.  This makes the exercise a lot harder when you have to clean the DBs each time.  You can also lower the dumbbells to the floor, but I like the idea of doing a hang-clean for each rep.  And since I'm doing higher reps, this will also improve your conditioning to some extent.  There are two ways that I've used this exercise.  The first method was to perform a set of eight reps, rest a minute or so, then increase the weight and do six reps.  Another rest and weight increase, followed by a set of three or four. This method works quite well, except that you have to keep changing the weight on the DBs.

Another method that I've been using for the last few weeks is to use one pair of dumbbells.  I will begin with ten reps. I will rest exactly one minute, then perform a set of nine.  One minute of rest, then I do eight reps, and so on.  I would continue until I hit one rep.  The important part is to keep the rest at one minute.  No longer.  And even though the number of reps decreases with each set, you are still working quite hard.  When it gets to the point where you can complete the ten sets easily, then it's time to use heavier dumbbells. Or, for an extra challenge, after you complete the last rep, you can try to move up the ladder again.  In other words, add a rep with each succeeding set and see how far you can make it.  This method is especially good if you are pressed for time- no pun intended- since you can complete all ten sets in less than fifteen minutes.

Many of the greats of the Iron Game utilized dumbbells and made tremendous gains.  With some imagination and hard work you can make similar gains while at the same time honoring those who have set the standards of Physical Culture.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Basic Workout That Builds Strength ........ But Not Showy Beach Muscles - By Jim Duggan

     There are many different training philosophies, developed over many years by a wide assortment of authors, trainers, exercise aficionados, experts, and hucksters ( yes, I said hucksters.)  Many of the training guidelines that have been used over the last fifty years or so are quite useful, and have helped countless thousands of people build strength, health, and muscle mass.  Of course, there are quite a few that are nothing but a bunch of damn bull----.  I'm not going to go into an argument over what method of training is better, but if you're reading this article on, then there's a good chance that you're not here to read about pumping or toning.  If you're like me, you don't pump, you LIFT.  And you train with the goal of not toning, but of developing STRENGTH, building MUSCLE, and maintaining your HEALTH.  All of the long forgotten virtues of Physical Culture.
     Several months ago, I decided to change my routine just a bit.  Nothing major.  I have always believed in training hard on the basic exercises, getting adequate rest, and trying to maintain progression on the main exercises.  And while some  exercises might have changed from time to time, I still devote most of my energy to the lifts that develop overall body strength.  Looking back at my training over the years, my routine has changed from the days when I was training for powerlifting.  Believe it or not, there was a time when I trained solely on the three powerlifts.  I would train exclusively on Squats, Bench Presses, and Deadlifts with nothing else.  It was-and is- a good routine for a competitive powerlifter.  But, obviously, this is not a balanced program, and certainly not conducive to overall development.
     Like I said, I started this program several months ago, and have been quite pleased with the results.  I utilize two different routines.  I alternate each routine on different training days.  I usually like to take two or three days between workouts, depending on how I've recovered from the previous workout.  One thing that is very important is to listen to your body.  This is especially important for those over the age of forty.  Proper rest/recovery becomes increasingly important as we get older.  And it should go without saying, that as natural strength athletes, we must be particularly attuned to what our bodies are telling us. The routine is as follows:

First Workout Day:
     Squat      3 x 10
     Dumbbell Press    3 x 6-12
     One-Arm DB Row   3 x 8-12
     Neck Work (Headstrap)  2 x 20-30
Second Workout Day
     Good Morning Exercise   6 x 6
     One Arm DB Press   3 x 3-8
     Barbell Shrug     3 x 6
     Side Bends      2 x 20
On both training days, Sit-Ups are done for one or two sets of 50 reps.

     A couple of notes about the exercises:  The Squats can be done for higher or lower reps.  If you wish to do the twenty-rep Squat workout, then by all means have at it.  You can substitute barbell rowing for the dumbbells, just please, please, please do them properly. Not like they are performed in most commercial gyms where they bend over at around 45 degrees and use a palm-up grip while using baby weights.  Do them like they were done by the lifters/strongmen of years ago and don't be afraid to handle heavy poundages.  As far as the Good Mornings, I've decided to try to really push them for a while.  I'll get back to deadlifting in the Fall. Right now, I want to see how high I can get my training poundages in this exercise.  I've been doing them for years, and I've never had a problem doing them.  However, this goes back to a previous paragraph:  Listen to your body!  If Good Mornings aren't for you, substitute another exercise.
     There is another reason why I have temporarily taken a break from deadlifts during the Summer months.  It involves one of my favorite "assistance movements."  Stone lifting.  The warm weather is an excellent time for me to go into the backyard and attack my granite stones.  Whether you refer to them as Atlas stones, McGlashen stones, or just big ol' rocks, they make an excellent exercise.  I have five stones- 145, 180, 220, 260, 300.  I will usually warm up with the 145, then work up to the 180, and the 220 for most of my work sets.  They can be used as a finisher, or as a workout in themselves.  Or they can be used for something else entirely.
     I turned 51 years-old on July 20, and I wanted to challenge myself in a meaninful way.  What better way than with granite stones?  My goal was to pick up and shoulder the 180 Lb. stone as many times as I could in sixty minutes.  After a brief warm-up, I attacked the stone.  I would do five or six lifts, then catch my breath and continue. It started out pretty well, and as I reached into the thirties, I still had a lot left in the tank.  It wasn't until I hit about 50 that it started to become an effort.  Not to mention the skin on my forearms becoming torn.  When I hit 60, I still had some time left, so I made an all-out effort to reach 64.  Why 64?  That's the year I was born, 1964.  I had about a minute left, and decided to call it a day.  I felt pretty good, very sore, and had nice raw forearms.  And while I don't necessarily recommend doing something like this all the time, it is definitely a nice change of pace.  And a nice way to challenge yourself.

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!

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"    

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